Suicide Prevention Protocol

What to Do if You are Concerned about a Student’s Safety

A Resource for Faculty, Staff, and Students at Medical University of South Carolina

Responding to students experiencing suicidal ideation/behaviors

  1. If a student appears to be in imminent danger of harming him/herself
  • Call Public Safety at 843-792-4196 if student is on campus.
  • Call 911 if student is off campus.

Emergency responders will attempt to locate student and transport to emergency services.

2. If a student threatens suicide (verbal or written), and/or evidence of recent superficial wounds are observed, and the degree of imminent danger is unclear

  • Submit a form to BSIT. Referrals are reviewed during normal business hours and are not monitored after hours, on weekends, or during official University holidays. 
  • Call CAPS for advice at 843-792-4930 if it is a weekday between 8:00AM & 5:00PM.
  • Call Public Safety at 843-792-4196 if student is on campus.
  • Call 911 if student is off campus.

Emergency responders may attempt to conduct a well-check on student.

Warning signs of suicide

It is important to respond immediately to concerns about suicidality. 75% of those attempting suicide considered it for less than 1 hour prior to their attempt. 1 in 4 deliberated less than 5 minutes prior to attempting.
Every complaint or reference to suicide should be taken very seriously. It is important to be supportive and avoid being judgmental or argumentative about moral or religious issues regarding suicide.

These signs may be clear or subtle, and may or may not predict suicidal behavior:

  • Talking about feeling hopeless or trapped
  • Withdrawing or isolating
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Sleeping little or too much
  • Previous attempts of suicide
  • Significant loss (relationship, physical impairment, failure)
  • If the student has firearms
  • If the student is intoxicated
  • Alcohol or drug abuse- Alcohol and some drugs can result in a loss of inhibition, may increase impulsive behavior, can lead to changes in the brain that result in depression over time, and can be disruptive to relationships-resulting in alienation and a loss of social connection. If a person cannot say “no” to a drug or control the amount used, there is a substance abuse problem.
  • Use all caps, comments indicating distress in on-line discussion boards, chats, or social media

Signs of imminent danger

  • Self-injurious behaviors
  • Ingesting substance(s) of which the amount and effects are uncertain.
  • Destruction of property
  • Talking openly about wanting to harm or threatening to harm him/herself to include social media posts, on-line discussion boards or chats.
  • Suicide plan
  • Detailed threats of lethal violence
  • Leaving goodbye messages
  • Giving away possessions 

Myths about suicide

Myth: Suicide occurs without warning.
Fact: Most people make some statement or some indication that they have a plan for suicide.

Myth: If you ask or talk about it you might plant the idea, so don’t.
Fact: Discussing suicide does not increase the likelihood that they will commit suicide. If you are willing to discuss suicide, it can lead to a person being more open about their thoughts and willingness to seek help.

Myth: Having a suicide in the family does not affect a person’s risk of suicide.
Fact: Having a suicide in the family results in 2 times higher risk of completing suicide.

Myth: Suicides increase over the holidays.
Fact: Suicides can happen anytime. While the holidays can be difficult for people, they are often around more people during the holidays which can be a protective factor.

Intervention team members

Any of the below members can provide resources for the student of concern.

BSIT Chairperson – 843.792.0686
Director, Counseling and Psychological Services – 843.792.4930
Associate Dean for Student Affairs, College of Medicine – 843.792.2081
Associate Professor and Director of Education, College of Dental Medicine – 843.792.3928
Associate Professor, College of Nursing – 843.792.1866
Assistant Professor, College of Pharmacy – 843.792.1186
Professor, College of Graduate Studies – 843.792.0624
Associate Dean for Academic & Faculty Affairs, College of Health Professions – 843.792.2239
Public Safety – 843.792.6207