What to notice and what to do when someone is in distress

Dear Cornellian,

We want to make you aware of resources available to you, and welcome your questions or concerns about access to information. Please visit the Caring Community website where we regularly post new and useful information. There, we will post messages such as the recent email that Provost Fuchs and Dean of Faculty Bill Fry sent out to faculty on Sunday asking them to reach out to students.

Many of you have asked for specific guidance about what to notice and what to do when you are concerned about someone. Following are suggestions:

1. What to know:

  • Suicide is not a solution. It can be prevented.
  • Help is available. It works. Asking for help is the right thing to do.
  • Every one of us needs to be able to recognize the signs of risk, take those signs seriously, and know where to get help.

2. What to notice:

  • Signs of serious depression such as unrelenting sadness, pessimism, hopelessness, desperation, anxiety, withdrawal, sleep problems
  • Increased alcohol and/or other drug use
  • Recent impulsiveness and taking unnecessary risks
  • Unexpected rage or anger
  • Threatening suicide or expressing a strong wish to die, making a plan

3. What to do:

  • Take warning signs seriously. Most people who attempt suicide give some warning of their intentions.
  • If you are concerned about someone else:
    • Express your concern; let the person know you care.
    • Convey your conviction that help works and that you know where to find it.
    • If you sense imminent risk, stay with the person; call Gannett or 911.
  • If you are considering suicide:
    • Please understand: the psychological pain you feel now is not permanent. Counseling is effective.
    • Seeking help is the smart thing to do. Reach out to a medical provider or counselor. If you are not able to do that, ask a friend, family member, RA, advisor, teacher, coach, co-worker, or suicide hotline counselor to help you.
    • Students: Gannett and CAPS (607 255-5155)
    • Faculty and staff: FSAP (800 327-2255)
    • Anyone: suicide hotline: (607 272-1616)