Finding Resources and Hope During Suicide Awareness Month
Staff member and BU alumna offers helpful tips for students in need of support.
September is Suicide Awareness Month, a time for finding hope. Hope is essential now, more than ever, especially for those who are feeling lost, alone, and out of options. At BU’s Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, hope drives everything we do. We offer nonjudgmental, resilience-building tools to support your goals and needs. We are proud to hold hope for our students, especially when they might not be able to have hope for themselves.
Within BU’s College Mental Health Programs, I’ve worked with students who feel hopeless and alone. Rather than problem-solving these feelings of hopelessness, we sit with them. We climb down into the hole of despair and say, “This sounds painful, but I’ll be here for you so you don’t have to sit with this alone.” The transformative power of sitting with a student’s pain creates opportunities for connection, for growth, and for hope. I’ve seen students regain their confidence in the classroom, come out to family and friends, find meaningful friendships, develop career goals, and accept their mistakes as growth opportunities, rather than devastating failures. While there are still hard days, I’ve heard many students say that someone acknowledging their pain was their path to coping with it.
If you or a loved one are distressed, but aren’t sure how to ask for help, these tips are for you. You can play an essential role in suicide prevention by expressing your concern in a caring, nonjudgmental way. Taking the initiative to ask for help or having a difficult conversation can save a life. Reaching out for help is a positive and life-affirming step to take, this month and every month.
1. Know the Signs
When distress becomes overwhelming, it’s important to pay attention to any changes in a person’s language, mood, and behavior. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s website includes a list of warning signs and risk factors and they include: talking about feeling like a burden, extreme mood swings, and abnormal sleeping habits. The website also includes 24/7, free, and confidential support via online chat or by phone at 1-800-273-8255.
2. Initiate a Conversation
Some people worry that by asking if a person is considering suicide, they might “put the idea in their head”—this could not be further from the truth. Research shows that talking about suicide and difficult emotions are live-saving actions. Seize the Awkward is an initiative by The JED Foundation to start these uncomfortable conversations with friends and classmates. “I’ve noticed you’ve been down lately. What’s been going on?” and “Seems like you haven’t been yourself lately. What’s up?” are just a few of their example conversation starters. BU has its own tip sheet for students in distress, including asking open-ended questions, finding a private space to talk, and focusing more on listening with empathy than finding a solution.
3. Connect with Campus Resources
The JED Foundation also created an online screening tool that connects you with relevant mental health resources on your campus. At BU, you might join one of Behavioral Medicine’s groups or workshops for coping through social connection, managing anxiety, LGBTQ+ support, and more. Through BU’s College Mental Health Programs, we also offer individual coaching, open-enrollment classes, and free weekly activities for support. Connecting with campus supports and peers around distressing emotions is a step away from isolation and towards finding hope.
4. Reach Out for Nonjudgmental Support
Whether you are reaching out for yourself or someone else, it’s critical to find someone to listen. You might reach out to a professor, therapist, or a free, 24/7, confidential service like Crisis Text Line. Text 741741 anytime to be connected with a crisis counselor immediately. The Trevor Project is a resource specifically for the LGBTQ+ community and can be reached by phone at 1-866-488-7386 or by texting START to 678678. Trans Lifeline is a resource for the trans community by the trans community to provide emotional, financial, and crisis support. You can contact the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860. The Steve Fund is an organization focused on supporting the mental health and emotional well-being of young people of color. In addition to workshops and community conversations, it also has a special partnership with Crisis Text Line. Simply text STEVE to 741741.
5. Keep Your Well-being a Priority
Recently, the Centers for Disease Control reported that 1 in 4 young adults (ages 18-24) have seriously considered suicide. We are in the midst of an especially anxiety-provoking and isolating time, yet it’s essential to find hope and stay connected. Active Minds offers resources for self-care and ways to promote a healthy campus mental health culture. NAMI is a national organization with in-person and virtual resources for managing a mental health condition as a college student. Diversifying your social media feed with accounts like TWLOHA is also a helpful reminder to keep hope for yourselves and others.
If you have any questions about suicide prevention or would like additional resources, please reach out to Boston University’s College Mental Health Programs at email@example.com. Dori Hutchinson is the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation’s director of services, a Faculty-in-Residence, and faculty advisor for BU’s Active Minds chapter. You can also follow us on social media on Instagram and Facebook.
Remember, your life matters and you are not alone.