(Campus Awareness, Referral and Education for Suicide Prevention)

"Sources of Strength"

Model for Suicide Prevention in the Campus Community 
(Adapted from Mark LoMurray's "Sources of Strength: A Natural Helper Guide for Preventing Youth Suicide for Friends, Parents, and Community"--Outreach Services, Inc. )

The Sources of Strength model is presented in a circle (see below) as eight simple strengths, assets, or resiliency that young adults who have been suicidal, addicted, traumatized, depressed, or in intense conflicts, state have been most helpful in finding their way back to some healing.

Healing, strength, resiliency or protection comes from a wide range of supports and places. These eight sources of strength are areas that young people at-risk for suicide will most commonly mention as making a positive difference in their lives. If you suspect a student may be suicidal, you should start by helping them get to appropriate mental health or medical services--they may be struggling with an untreated or undiagnosed medical or mental health problem. Remember--move beyond just one support. Develop a cluster of supports around a suicidal young person.

Your support as a parent, friend, mentor, or faculty/staff person on campus is important, but your help alone is usually not enough to keep a suicidal student safe.

The key is to build many of these sources of strength around our students. Remember that most suicidal individuals do not wish to die, but are often feeling alone, isolated, and hopeless. Healthy supportive relationships are vital in helping a suicidal person through a crisis. Without some caring relationships in a suicidal person's life, many of the other interventions lack effectiveness and intensity.

Think of suicide interventions and prevention as building a cluster of supports.

Many individuals struggling with depression, anger, trauma, and substance abuse find that spiritual support and seeking healthy beliefs is very healing and starts them on a new path in life. Others often find that becoming involved in positive activities, such as sports, art, and music, makes a trememdous difference. Yet others find that reaching out and helping others, practicing generosity in their lives not only helps others, but acts as a powerful protector in their own lives. Some find that a specific medication, therapy, or a support group is the key in finding their way through a dificult time. As a parent, friend, faculty or staff person, remember to involve others in bringing healing and support to someone feeling suicidal.

Informal and Formal Supports

It is helpful for students to identify staff or faculty person on campus to whom they would go if they had a suicidal friend, since students are more likely to refer friends to people they know, rather than outside agencies or offices on campus. It is also important to remember that there are organizations and individuals on campus and out in our community that are trained to help with suicide: counselors, hospitals, clinics and emergency services. If you are not sure who to contact, call 2-1-1 in ND or the National LifeLine at 1-800-273-TALK and they will assist 24 hours a day. Locally, the FirstLink Hotline is available 24-hours at 235-SEEK (2335)

See It--Say It

(Adapted from Minnesota Institute of Public Health)
When a friend or family member engages in risky, unhealthy, or suicidal behaviors here is a simple careing, but assertive way to talk to them:

  1. I care...express your concern and care first.
  2. I see...describe what you see or noticed.
  3. I feel...use a feeling word--worried, concerned, etc.
  4. I'm listening...what is going on for you?
  5. Have you been thinking of suicide, hurting yourself?
  6. I want...you to talk to a school counselor, etc.
  7. I will..go with you, make an appointment, contact you later, etc

Remember if someone is actively suicidal, get help immediately, do not leave them alone, and get medical or mental health assistance as a place to start the healing process.

Codes of Silence--A Deadly Barrier to Help

Friends are often the first to notice signs of concern or even suicidal signs in their friends. In one study, 80% of teen suicidal fatalities had peers that knew their friend was suicidal, but chose not to seek out older adults for help.

The reasons for silence are many...

  • Not taking threats seriously
  • Thinking their friend will get in trouble
  • Afraid their friend will be angry with them
  • Not knowing or trusting older people to turn to
  • Believeing they can take care of their friend by themselves
  • Thinking that their friend was suicidal for just that incident (most stay at-risk for up to six months)

Remember, tell someone. Get your friend, student or family member to help and begin building multiple supports. Don't try to keep them safe by yourself.

If a suicidal person is joking about suicide or making suicide comments or threats while drinking alcohol or using drugs--this makes them significantly more at risk to harm themselves, not less. Many believe when an individual is drunk they do not know what they are saying--65% of teen suicide fatalities happen when the individual is drunk or high.


For natural helpers such as parents, friends, mentors, faculty, staff and spiritual advisors, think of LEADER as a guide during an intervention.

Listen--Take suicide indications seriously. Never mock or challenge a student's statements about suicide.

Empathize--Your greatest strength in helping a suicidal student is your relationship with them. Make every effort to be available and try to keep in touch with the student's moods and progress.

Affirm--Don't contradict a stuent's feelings of hopelessness or how bad everything is, but acknowledge the difficulties and affirm their worth as a person.

Direct-- Build your relationshp with the student, foster communication, teach coping skills, focus on resources, and develop a plan of action.

Enlist-- Involve the student in a verbal "life agreement." Ask them to agree to keep trying an dto call someone or make a contact if overwhelmed. Take the time to talk if contacted by the student.

Refer--If a student has even passing thoughts of suicide, a medical or mental health assessment should be pursued. If the danger is serious, take them inmmediately to the counseling center or to a hospital or local mental health center.

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