Call for Help

Suicide prevention training for UW–Madison students

The suicide prevention training builds capacity in UW–Madison students to intervene and offer support for their friends and peers. This multi-part program can be done at your own pace and includes modules on foundations, recognizing warning signs, responding effectively, referring to resources, and includes scenarios for practice. This training is not a form of counseling or support for students in distress. Read more about the mental health services available for UW–Madison students.

If you have questions or comments about the training, email

Additional Information from Suicide Prevention Training

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Part 1: Foundations


  • Suicide: death caused by self-directed, injury-causing behavior that was intended to cause death
  • Suicidal Ideation: thinking about, considering, or planning for suicide
  • Suicide Attempt: self-directed, injury-causing behavior that was intended to cause death, but may or may not have been fatal
  • Self-Injury: self-directed, injury-causing behavior intended to cause injury, but not death
  • Survivor of Suicide Loss: someone who has experienced the death of another person by suicide
  • Stigma: When we view another person in a negative way because of certain personal traits they have, behaviors they engage in, or experiences they have had.

Language that Helps Reduce the Stigma around Suicide

  • “Died by suicide” (rather than “committed suicide”)
  • “Fatal suicide attempt” (rather than “successful suicide”)
  • “Nonfatal suicide attempt” (rather than “unsuccessful suicide”)
  • “Someone who attempted suicide” (rather than “suicide attempter”; learn more about Person-First Language)
  • “Shared thoughts of suicide” (rather than “threatened suicide”; see Violence Prevention and Survivor Services)

Additional Information about Suicide

 National Data on Suicide

  • National Institute of Mental Health
    • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death overall in the United States and the 2nd leading cause of death for people ages 10–34.
    • Between 2001 and 2017, the total suicide rate increased 31% from 10.7 to 14.0 per 100,000 people.
  • National Survey on Drug Use and Health (SAMHSA, 2017)
    • Suicidal Ideation in 2017
      • 3% of adults in the United States had thoughts of suicide.
        • Thoughts of suicide were highest among adults 18–25 years old.
      • 6 million adults reported having serious thoughts about trying to kill themselves.
    • Suicide Attempts in 2017
      • 6% of adults in the United States attempted suicide in 2017.
        • Suicide attempts were highest among adults 18–25 years old.
      • 4 million adults made a nonfatal suicide attempt in the last year.

Part 2: Recognize

Secondary Stress: physical, mental, or emotional exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged exposure to the distress of others

  • Tends to occur when the support someone provides is excessive and prolonged, or if they are the only source of support for a person.

Warning Signs for Suicide

  • Change in mood
  • Swollen, red, or glassy eyes
  • Change in personal hygiene
  • Isolating
  • Lowered self-worth or confidence
  • Change in sleep
  • Out-of-character behavior
  • Not showing up for obligations
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Referencing suicide

Protective Factors that Buffer Against Suicide

  • Awareness and Knowledge
  • Skills
  • Access
  • Support
  • Belonging

Part 3: Respond

Boundaries: limits that we identify in order to set reasonable and safe ways for other people to behave toward us, and how we respond when people cross those limits

Respond Checklist

  • Tone of voice and body language
  • You are not alone.
  • Check in
    • Name specific warning signs + Ask permission to talk more
      • “I’ve noticed recently that you’ve been coming to meetings late and, when you get here, you look like you’ve been crying. Can I ask how you are?”
  • Use active listening skills
    • Attend to the person
    • Silence and Minimal Encouragers
    • Empathy
    • Reflections
      • Reflections of Content
        • “It sounds like you are unsure if you belong here since being on academic probation.”
      • Reflections of Emotion
        • “It seems like you’re feeling ashamed about being on academic probation.”
  • Ask directly about suicide
    • Asking directly about suicide reduces stigma, opens up the conversation, and informs how you might Refer the person.
      • “Are you thinking about suicide?”
      • “Are you having thoughts of suicide?”
      • “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”

Part 4: Refer

Help Lines and Crisis Lines

Campus Mental Health Resources

Additional Student Support

  • Academic Advising
    • Advisors are here to help you get the most of your college experience. You can talk about your advisor with a number of things from setting academic, career, and life goals, to connecting with tutors, to understanding university policies and deadlines.
  • Dean of Students Office
    • Location: 70 Bascom Hall, 500 Lincoln Dr., Madison, WI 53706
    • Drop-In Hours:
      • Fall and Spring Semesters: Monday–Friday, 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
      • Winter Break and Summer: Monday–Friday, 8:30–11:30 a.m. and 1–4 p.m.
    • 608-263-5700
    • The Dean of Students Office provides a caring, unique environment for students across campus to seek assistance and support around a number of experiences listed here, including academic issues, bias incidents, and mental health concerns.
  • McBurney Disability Resource Center
    • Location: 702 W. Johnson St. Suite 2104, Madison, WI 53715
    • 608-263-2741
    • McBurney Disability Resource Center is the office for students with disabilities and classroom accommodations on the UW–Madison campus. McBurney works collaboratively with students and instructors to provide and support student accommodations.

Immediate Danger

  • If you or the student you are supporting is in immediate danger of attempting suicide, call the UHS 24-hour crisis line to speak with a crisis worker about your concerns, to assess safety, and to talk through options for staying alive.

 Involving the Police

University of Wisconsin–Madison Police Department (UWPD)

Asking Further about Suicidal Ideation

  • The questions below are intended to help someone better understand a person’s experiences of suicidal ideation. As a support person, you are not ever expected to ask these questions. If you are concerned about a peer to the extent that you feel these questions should be asked, call the UHS 24-hour Crisis Line at 608-265-5600 Option 9.
  • Ask directly about suicide.
    • “Are you thinking about suicide?”
    • “Are you having thoughts of suicide?”
    • “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”
  • Ask about a plan to attempt suicide.
    • “Have you thought about how you might attempt suicide (kill yourself)? What did you think about?”
    • “Have you planned out how you would do it?”
  • Ask about the means to attempt suicide.
    • “Do have access to (the means the person would use to carry out a suicide attempt according to their plan)?”
  • Ask about the person’s intent to attempt suicide.
    • “When would you carry out (go through with) this plan? Do you have a day or time in mind?”

Check In Again