Silvio Weisner: What you need to know to prevent campus suicide

World Suicide Prevention Day, a time dedicated to remembering those friends and loved ones who lost their lives to suicide, was last month. But as a campus community, our commitment to suicide prevention is not over.

Suicide can be particularly painful for the victim’s friends and family members due to feelings of responsibility and inadequacy for not “doing enough” to prevent a tragedy from happening. Preventing suicide is possible, but only when we make suicide prevention everyone’s responsibility. Just as one lone person is not responsible for a completed suicide, one lone person is also not responsible for preventing suicide.

Suicide prevention is predicated on awareness of mental illness, detecting signs of depression and knowing how to intervene when you know someone may have suicidal thoughts. It is the role of mental health counselors on campus to educate everyone about the warning signs of suicide.

But, just as importantly, it is the role of all community members to say something to the person who might be contemplating suicide and connect them to available resources. This can be an awkward conversation and people often struggle to say the right words. Learning the facts about suicide and dispelling myths ­– for example, the flawed belief that asking if someone is suicidal can “plant the idea” – can help convey concern rather than potentially alienate a struggling person.

To help educate the GW community about signs that someone may be considering suicide, and to empower students, faculty and staff about how to encourage someone to get help, the UCC has held over 25 prevention and education workshops since Aug. 1, including suicide prevention training on World Suicide Prevention Day. Throughout the school year, the UCC will work to promote awareness about the signs and symptoms of depression and suicide.

By working together as a campus community to ask the students about whom we are concerned if they need help, and by educating ourselves on campus mental health resources, we can effectively aid in preventing the tragedy of suicide.

Silvio Weisner is the director of the University Counseling Center.

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The University Counseling Center will partner with the Community Counseling Services Center and other campus mental health training clinics to provide free depression screenings on National Depression Screening Day on Thursday, Oct. 10, at various campus locations.

If your student organization or department would like to request suicide prevention training, or if you think that you might be depressed or experiencing emotional distress, please contact the UCC any time for assistance (202-994-5300) or go online at to take part in an anonymous mental health screening.

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