Suicide loss is devastating. Friends, family, churches, schools, and communities are left reeling whenever a life is lost. And the risk of copycat suicide attempts increases significantly with each suicide death experienced by a community—no one is an island, so every loss has long-ranging ripple effects of pain and suffering.
Suicidal thoughts are a type of “misery index,” and are commonly related to depression or other experiences of mental suffering. While having suicidal thoughts is not an uncommon experience, such thoughts tend to come in waves and acute risk tends to decrease in a short amount of time after peaking—few people act on suicidal thoughts. We can all play a role in helping someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts to stay alive through that acute risk period. Asking direct questions about suicidal thoughts, offering a listening ear, providing healthy distractions, removing lethal means, engaging in safety planning, and connecting the individual with a treatment provider are all examples of effective interventions. We know that experiences of connection and belonging are the best preventers of suicide, and creating those experiences is part of what we do here at Calvin University as we live out our mission to “think deeply, act justly, and live wholeheartedly.” We are a community.
Calvin University is committed to equipping our community members to participate in suicide prevention. The Center for Counseling and Wellness would love to provide suicide prevention training to your group, department, organization, or class utilizing the Question Persuade Refer (QPR) approach—please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a training.
Also, whether you are a staff, faculty, student, parent/guardian, alumnus, or friend, we hope that you will take some time to engage with the free, open source ZeroSuicide training resources and suicide prevention materials that we have gathered here. Let us know how else we can help you feel equipped and prepared as part of our safety net at Calvin University!
ZeroSuicide training resources
Assessing suicide risk
The Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS) is a brief, evidence-based assessment tool created for both clinicians and laypeople to use in determining suicide risk. It is easy to access, administer, and score. Using the Columbia Scale will help you know whether an individual is in need of professional intervention to maintain safety. You can use it even if you have no training in mental health!
Training in the Columbia Scale (C-SSRS) can be accessed through the Columbia Lighthouse Project. The following YouTube videos serve as a useful starting point:
The Columbia Scale can be accessed in the following formats for use in safety assessment:
- Columbia Scale online
- Columbia Scale app: Columbia Protocol (access via Google Play or Apple Store)
- Printable Columbia Scale
Assessing access to means
Counseling on Access to Lethal Means (CALM) training will help you learn to reduce access to the means people use to kill themselves. Reducing access slows down response time during times of acute suicidality, thereby reducing risk of impulsive action and helping to save lives.
Supporting effective safety planning
The Stanley-Brown Safety Plan is an evidence-based approach to decreasing suicide risk. Safety planning can be carried out independently, with the support of family/friends, and/or with a professional.
The Stanley-Brown Safety Plan can be accessed in the following formats:
- Stanley-Brown app: My3 “Safety Plan” feature (Apple Store) or Stanley-Brown Safety Plan (Apple Store)
- Printable Stanley-Brown: Original or Calvin-specific