What can you do if you are concerned your child may be thinking about suicide?
It’s always better to overreact than underreact. Your genuine interest and support are what matter most. When talking to your son or daughter, remember to:
- Be direct. Talk openly and honestly about suicide.
- Listen, offer support and understanding. Allow feelings to be expressed. And accept them.
- Don’t judge, debate the morality of suicide or whether feelings are good or bad.
- Don’t lecture about the value of life.
- Don’t act shocked. This will put distance between you and your child.
- Be available. Show interest and support. Get involved. Get help.
Don’t ignore the warning signs.
Suicide is a leading cause of death for college students. You can help save a life by knowing and understanding the facts of suicide prevention.
- Ask directly if your son or daughter is thinking about suicide. Asking will not put the idea into his or her head.
- If you can’t ask, find someone who can ask about suicide.
- You may not be able to understand what your child is going through, but you can help get him or her through it.
- Be persistent, but gentle as you ask questions and get answers.
- Offer to call for help if your child is reluctant. Or offer to come to a first appointment. The first step is often the hardest.
- Learn about the resources available so you can provide your son or daughter with options.
Never leave your son or daughter alone, if possible.
If there is a crisis, get another person to find your child help. It could be other friends or family, a religious leader, a suicide crisis line, counselor or doctor. Remove any available means, such as guns or pills, which could be used for self-harm.
Steps to prevention
If your child is already at OSU
- Keep the lines of communication open.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your son or daughter if you think that something is wrong. You may be in the best position to notice and address any difficulties that your child is having. Be persistent!
- Know the signs and symptoms of emotional disorders as well as the warning signs for suicide.
It is common for mental health problems to appear for the first time during the college years, so you may want to familiarize yourself with their signs and symptoms.
- Encourage your child to go to the counseling center if you think it is necessary.
Enrolled students are eligible for 10 free sessions per academic year at Ohio State’s Counseling and Consultation Services. This is in addition to any other benefits offered through your or your child’s health insurance. Sometimes students can be reluctant to seek help because they are afraid that someone will find out. Reassure your child that counseling services are provided confidentially and that you support them as they reach out for assistance.
- Find out whom to call at OSU if you’re concerned about your child’s emotional well-being.
It may be helpful to create a list of key campus contacts and keep it in a convenient place. Make sure to keep the list up to date.
If your child is applying to college
- Think about the “fit” between a college and your child’s personality.
Academics are important, but other aspects of a college (e.g., size, location, diversity, extracurricular activities) can impact how well your child thrives in all areas of college life.
- Understand what mental health services, policies and programs exist at your child’s prospective college(s), especially if he or she has an existing emotional disorder.
- What services are provided by the counseling center? Are there associated fees? Are there a maximum number of sessions allowed per year? Are there specialists (e.g., in treating eating disorders)? Is there a psychiatrist on staff? Does the counseling center provide off-campus referrals?
- Is there a counselor on call 24 hours a day? If not, what after-hours emergency services are available?
- Under what circumstances will the college notify you regarding your child’s mental health? What happens if you call the college with a concern about your child?
- Does the college train faculty, staff, resident advisors (RAs) etc. to identify and refer students in emotional distress?
- What kinds of educational programming (e.g., workshops, talks) are provided to students around mental health and wellness?
- What accommodations are available through disability services for students with emotional disorders?
- What is the policy around taking leaves of absence?
- Learn about other available support structures.
Ask about tutoring, academic and peer advising, education coaching, student activities, and career services. Understand how much support is available in the residence halls, such as the number of resident advisors. Find out how the college helps students to connect with one another.
If your child has been accepted to Ohio State, but has not started
- Be honest on the college’s medical history form about your child’s current or past emotional issues.
These forms provide important information to the health/mental health practitioners (no less important than the rest of your child’s medical history) and they are confidential!
- If your child is being treated for mental health problem before going to college, transfer his/her care and records to the OSU’s counseling center.
Your child may never need to visit a mental health professional, but the stresses of college can cause existing (or previous) mental health problems to worsen (or re-emerge). The start of college may not be the ideal time to stop treatment.
- Find out what mental health services are covered when making decisions about your child’s health insurance.
You may decide to keep your child’s existing health insurance or you may choose to purchase student health insurance through the college. When making this decision, consider the following:
- Will your child’s existing insurance cover an out-of-state provider?
- Will he or she be able to fill out-of-state prescriptions?
- What outpatient and inpatient mental health services, emergency care and prescriptions are covered under each insurance plan?
- What mental health services are covered by student health fees (e.g., number of sessions, psychiatric care or medication)?
- Identify whether your child is eligible to register with disability services.
If your child has a diagnosed mental illness, he or she may be eligible to register with the disability services offices to receive reasonable accommodations. This may include education coaching, academic accommodations or other services.
- Read the student handbook.
This will include a code of conduct that addresses issues such as alcohol or other drug use and plagiarism. It includes information regarding confidentiality of records and leaves of absence.