close up of two young women holding hands to give comfort

You Can Help Prevent Suicide: Know the Signs and Resources

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.

At The University of Alabama, we are committed to creating a campus community focused on supporting student mental health and well-being.  

September is suicide awareness month, and we’re taking this opportunity to emphasize that each of us has a part to play in preventing suicide in our community. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people.  

Even though it can be a difficult topic to discuss, suicide prevention is a community effort and it is important that we all participate in our ongoing efforts to prevent suicide in our community. Through the Counseling Center’s Tide Against Suicide initiative, we work to bring awareness on prevention skills to faculty, staff, students and families.  

For students, here are some ways you can become better informed and ready to be a part of the solution to suicide: 

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. 

Build relationships.

Suicide prevention starts with relationships. It is easier to look out for each other and to pay attention to warning signs when we are connected to each other. Be willing to lean into your relationships to provide and ask for support when it is needed. This also makes it easier to ask questions and listen well when we notice someone in our sphere is struggling. 

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. You can also access free online self-help tools available through the Counseling Center. Reach out for help from trained volunteers by texting BAMA to 741-741. 

Know your limits.

Though you can play an important role in suicide prevention by becoming more comfortable with talking to others who may be struggling, it is important to know that you are never responsible for someone else’s safety or their choices. If you ever feel overwhelmed or overcommitted when supporting someone, or if you feel responsible for someone else’s safety, please reach out for consultation and support. The Counseling Center is a great resource for this (205-348-3863) and we would be glad to help. 

Get involved.

Students who wish to learn more about this issue have several very good 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 student advisory board. Here are some other ways to get involved: 

  • Participate in our QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) training series. QPR is a gatekeeper training program that helps attendees be more prepared to identify, engage and refer students who may be struggling with suicide. 
  • Request QPR training for your student group from the Counseling Center at 205-348-3863 or through our program request form
  1. 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 event 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. All UA community members are invited to attend.