The university is a concerned, caring, community with many resources. When someone is in distress, the university does care and does want to respond as compassionately and effectively as possible.
The SIREN Model
See: Observe warning signs
Inquire: Ask for more information
Reflect: Demonstrate understanding
Encourage: Instill hope and help-seeking
Network: Refer and connect student with resources
The first step is to notice someone’s distress and “see” with a nonjudgmental eye. What seems like a very manageable stress to one person can feel overwhelming to another.
Notice the warning signs and risk factors. They mean that your attention is needed.
Most individuals have mixed feelings about the option of suicide and may make indirect and ambivalent statements. It is important to ask what the person is thinking and feeling.
- “What do you mean when you say…”
- “Your email made reference to feeling hopeless. How have you been feeling?
- “Are you having thoughts about suicide?”
- “What kinds of thoughts are you having?”
- “Do you have a plan to kill yourself?”
- “How ready or worried are you that you would act on these thoughts?”
The more specific the plan and the more certain the intent, the greater the risk of action towards self harm.
Reflection allows you to:
- Ensure that the information you received was accurate
- Show the person that you understood them
- Convey empathy and support
Strategies for reflection:
- Re-stating: “You’re feeling devastated.”
- Summarizing: “You said you’re feeling too tired to keep going and have thought about death as a relief.”
- Checking: “Is this right so far?” “Did I get what you mean?”
- Reflect content: To increase accuracy “I heard you say you’ve thought about killing yourself several times this week but haven’t thought about a way to do this; is that right?”
- Reflect emotion: To convey understanding “You’re really hurt and sad about your break-up.”
- Express empathy: “I see how bad you are feeling right now.” “I know you are pretty discouraged right now.”
- Instill hope: “I believe this can get better for you.” “Your life is worth living.” “You don’t have to go through this alone.”
- Highlight strengths and supports: “I know how important your family is to you.” “Your resourcefulness can help you through this.”
Avoid these responses:
- Negative questions: “You’re not thinking about suicide, are you?”
- Pat reassurances: “Cheer up, everything is going to be fine.”
- Judgments: “You know it’s wrong to think that way.”
- Denying: “I can’t believe you’re thinking about this.”
Network And Refer
- Frame help seeking as positive: “It shows strength and maturity to talk about this.”
- Reinforce person for speaking: “I appreciate your courage in talking with me.”
- Encourage person to speak to someone at Counseling and Psychological Services.
- Describe the benefits of talking to a CAPS therapist: “Talking more with a therapist would give you even more support.”
- De-stigmatize counseling services: “Counselors are good listeners and can help you think of new solutions.” “Lots of students use CAPS to talk about what’s going on in their lives.”
- Acknowledge and address ambivalent feelings: “What helped you talk to me today?” “What could make it hard to go to CAPS and what could we do about that?”
- Help make the connection by considering:
- Calling CAPS with the person
- Walking over to CAPS with the person
- Making a plan to check in with person about following up on referral
- Giving multiple referrals (e.g., CAPS, parents, clergy)
Avoid the following:
- Making a deal to keep “secret” the person’s suicidal thoughts and feelings
- Assuming sole responsibility for responding to the crisis
You can ALWAYS call CAPS to consult about how to proceed.
If you are concerned that intervention needs to occur very quickly:
- Alert CAPS by phone or walk in for urgent care service: 919-966-3658
- Contact the Dean of Student’s office and emergency on-call: 919-966-4042
- If after-hours, call the CAPS after-hours number: 919-966-2281
- If in the residence hall, contact RA or community director or housing on-call staff
- Notify the local police (campus police if on campus, Chapel Hill-Carrboro if in the community)
- Call 911