a hand rests on the shoulder of another person to provide comfort

Suicide Prevention is a Community Effort: Do Your Part to Help

Greg Vander Wal

about the AUTHOR

Dr. Greg Vander Wal is the executive director of The University of Alabama Counseling Center and a licensed psychologist. Vander Wal has over a decade of experience in collegiate mental health services.

The Division of Student Life is committed to supporting students to maximize their learning experiences. Part of this support is focused on holistic well-being and working to cultivate the knowledge, skills and behaviors needed to build a life of vitality, engagement, purpose and resilience while creating healthy environments through college and beyond.  

One vital aspect of a campus community that supports student well-being is a campus culture committed to suicide prevention and awareness. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people, and everyone in our campus community can be part of the solution.  

Through the Counseling Center’s Tide Against Suicide initiative, we strive to create partners across campus committed to preventing suicide in our community. Here are some ways you can become better informed and prepared to play your part: 

Know the signs of suicide.

These are only a few of the possible warning signs of suicide.  

  • Previous suicide attempts, especially ones that led to a hospital visit 
  • Currently talking or thinking about suicide 
  • Feeling hopeless or seeing no other options 
  • Abusing alcohol or drugs 
  • Experiencing recent losses or relationship problems 
  • Feeling trapped by one’s circumstances 

If you have questions regarding other possible signs of suicide, please call the Counseling Center for assistance at 205-348-3863. 

Be willing to ask questions and listen well.

Most of us on campus are not mental health experts. However, most of us are in the crucial position of building relationships with students. Being willing to ask questions and listen when you notice a student may be struggling can often provide the important link between a student in need and the resources that can help. See the training opportunities below for more information on how you can build your skills in this area. 

Know campus referral resources.

UA has several resources to support students who may be struggling. The UA 911 Guide provides a list of all resources and what issues would be best addressed by each. Please access and bookmark this information and consult it should you become concerned about suicide and other mental health issues among students. You can also encourage students to: 

  • access free online self-help tools available through the Counseling Center.  
  • reach out for help from trained volunteers by texting BAMA to 741-741. 

Participate in training.

Members of our community who wish to learn more about this issue have several opportunities. Please visit our Tide Against Suicide page to learn more about the initiative and ways you can access training or be a part of the team. Here are some other ways to engage: 

  • Request QPR training for your department or group from the Counseling Center at 348-3863 or through our program request form
  • Take a free, 30-minute online training for suicide prevention called Ask, Listen, Refer

Join the Tide Against Suicide during any of our events for Suicide Awareness Week Sept. 18-24. The finale is our Out of the Darkness Walk fundraiser on Sunday at 6 p.m., beginning at the Student Center Plaza with registration beginning at 5 p.m., and all UA community members are invited to attend.