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Office of Wellness Education

Support a Friend Expressing Thoughts About Suicide

Merrimack cares about all students, and no student is alone when there is a concern about suicide.  The most important thing you can do is to ask for help.  If you are concerned about the immediate safety of yourself or someone you care about, call the Merrimack College Police Department (978-837-5911) immediately.  If you are off-campus, please call 911.   Students can also access the Hamel Counselor-on-Call through Residence Life staff or by calling MCPD.  Both of these options offer immediate support and/or intervention to assist students. 

If you would like to know more about suicide and how to help, below is some further information. You are not alone, and there are lots of options to get you or someone you care about the help necessary to heal. 

Recognizing Signs of Suicide

Thoughts or statements indicating a desire or wish to die. For example:

  • I wish I were dead.
  • I’m tired of life.
    I’m so tired of it all
  • You would be better off without me

Behaviors or actions that seem out of the ordinary or are of concern.  For example: 

  • Lack of concern about personal safety or taking unnecessary risks
  • Increased or dangerous substance use
  • Prolonged depression or significant withdrawal from normal activities such as social relationships, academics, or family
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Stockpiling pills, weapons, or other means of conduct self-harm

If you or someone you care about is experiencing feelings, thoughts, or behaviors that are concerning, do not wait to reach out for help.  Resources are available for you to talk through these concerns and determine next steps. 

How Can I Help a Friend?

 1.  Question

Try to plan a time and find a private space to talk with your friend.  If they bring up thoughts of self-harm, remember that research shows that when someone is asked about self-harm they experience relief, not stress.   Asking about it does not make it worse, it actually gives an opportunity to address the situation in a healthy way.  Here are some ways to start the conversation:

  • I’m concerned when you say things like ___________.  Are you serious about wishing you were dead?
  • When some people are as upset as you seem to be, they sometimes wish they were dead.  I wanted to check in to see if you might feel that way, too.
  • I really care about you and so I have to ask- are you considering suicide?

2. Persuade and Support

If someone express thoughts of suicide, your next step is to help connect them to resources that can help.  First, LISTEN to what they are saying.  This is critical.  Take a deep breath and remember that they are safe with you in this moment.  Let your friend talk without interruption and without judgment.  Let them know you are here to help.  Second, try and PERSUADE them to access help.  Say:

  • “I’m concerned about you.  Can we walk to Hamel together?”
  • “You are really important to me and I’m worried.  I think it’s time to contact Residence Life staff to help us. “
  • “I care about you and don’t want to see anything bad happen.  Would you be willing to sit with me and call for help?”

3. Ask for Help

If you are not sure what to do or someone you are worried about is not willing to get help, you will need to reach out for assistance from someone who can help.  It is never your job to keep someone safe.  Do not worry about seeming disloyal to someone you care about – the most important thing is to get someone help when they need it.  

  • If there is an immediate threat 24 hours a day, call the Merrimack College Police Department at 978-837-5911.  You can also call 911 if you are off-campus.  
  • During business hours, contact Hamel Health and Counseling (978-837-5911) or find your Resident Director.
  • If you would like to speak with someone anonymously, you can call the National Hopeline Network at 1-800-SUICIDE,  the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK, or the Good Samaritan Hotline 1-877-870-4673.

Adapted from QPR Institute Ask a Question, Save a Life by Paul Quinnett, Ph.D