What to Say

There are many ways you can help!

First, you can speak with the student about the changes you have been noticing. Below you will find some suggestions about how to have that conversation. If you don't feel like you're prepared, you can contact UAA's Student Health & Counseling Center at 907-786-4040 for professional advice during business hours, or contact the Alaska Careline at 1-877-266-4357 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

While you might not be able to solve students' problems, just talking to them will show them that you care and that they are not alone. Below are some tips on how to approach the subject: 

Appear Calm

Aim to appear as calm as possible if a student talks to you about feeling suicidal. It can be normal to feel frantic or irritated.

Try not to appear inconvenienced, frustrated or frantic (even if this may be how you feel).

Use reflective listening

Reflective listening is an empathic response that can help the student feel heard and understood. Sometimes it can help to mentally repeat a couple of things you’re hearing the person say and use this as information to reflect back.

If you're unsure, start with a basic reflection and begin by saying, “It sounds like…” and reflect what you have heard (even if it is word for word). If you're comfortable, use any feeling words they may have expressed such as, “You must be feeling exhausted right now” or “I imagine you’re pretty overwhelmed with everything right now.”

Avoid tones that may come across as shocked, judgmental, or criticizing such as “Don’t be ridiculous” or “Why would you want to do something like that?” If you feel yourself starting to think in this direction, acknowledge this to yourself and attempt to shift to a reflective listening stance.

Speak directly about suicide

Being willing to talk openly about suicide means being able speak directly about what you are noticing and asking directly about suicide. If you’re seeing someone demonstrate risk factors, it can be a prompt to ask the person directly if they are considering suicide. 

Some people have difficulty speaking directly about suicide. It is easy to vaguely communicate things that are uncomfortable. Direct communication about suicide risks eliminates guess work and helps the suicidal person recognize the reality of the situation. 

  • Use direct questions: “Are you thinking about suicide?” or "Are you thinking about killing yourself?"
  • Do not use indirect questions: “You’re not thinking of ending things, are you?” or "Are you thinking about hurting yourself?"

Provide resources

Help the student recognize that it's normal to ask for support:

  •  “I care about what happens to you. I hope you consider following up with the [name specific resource].” 
  • “When I have been stressed out, talking to someone was really helpful.” 

Provide information about resources.  For example:

Even if the student resists, follow up regularly and continue to suggest and provide resources for supportive services.


Crisis Intervention Careline
24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Call toll-free statewide at
877-266-4357 or 800-273-8255
38 Percent of UAA students have experienced depression. Help is available and effective. Click here for an online screening.