Suicide Prevention Month at UAB

Throughout the month of September, the UAB Employee Assistance & Counseling Center and Student Counseling Services are spotlighting five ways you can #BeThe1To help someone who may be having thoughts of suicide — even during times of social distancing. Check this page each week for life-saving information from Suicide Prevention Lifeline, plus virtual events, online resources and more. To register for QPR Suicide Prevention Training from UAB Cares, select a date below or view flyer for more information.

Week 5: 9/28-10/2

#BeThe1To... FOLLOW UP

Check in with the person you care about on a regular basis. Making contact with a friend in the days and weeks after a crisis can make a difference in keeping them alive.

HOW: After your initial contact with a person experiencing thoughts of suicide, and after you’ve connected them with the immediate support systems they need, make sure to follow-up with them to see how they’re doing. Leave a message, send a text, or give them a call. The follow-up step is a great time to check in with them to see if there is more you are capable of helping with or if there are things you’ve said you would do and haven’t yet had the chance to get done for the person.

WHY: This type of contact can continue to increase their feelings of connectedness and share your ongoing support. There is evidence that even a simple form of reaching out, like sending a caring postcard, can potentially reduce their risk for suicide.

Studies have shown a reduction in the number of deaths by suicide when following up was involved with high risk populations after they were discharge from acute care services. Studies have also shown that brief, low cost intervention and supportive, ongoing contact may be an important part of suicide prevention. Please visit our Follow-Up Matters page for more.

Using the #BeThe1To Steps while Social Distancing

Following up provides the person with a further feeling of connectedness. Similar to the principles of ‘be there’ during physical distancing, setting aside a time and date that you will follow up can provide something to look forward to and sends the message that you care. Be sure to clear your calendar of all distractions for the time. Never underestimate the value of showing up.

Virtual Events

QPR Gatekeeper Training
Tuesday, Sept. 29

QPR Training for Employees (8:30-10 a.m.)  |  Click here to register.

Online Resources

Suicide in America: Frequently Asked Questions: This fact sheet from the National Institute of Mental Health explores the signs and symptoms, risk factors and warning signs, and ongoing research about suicide and suicide prevention.
Follow-Up Matters: Resources from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for following up with hotline callers and people recently discharged from an emergency or inpatient setting
A Randomized Controlled Trial of Postcrisis Suicide Prevention: This study, published in Psychiatry Online, looks at professionals' maintenance of long-term contact with persons at risk of suicide as a suicide-prevention influence.

Week 1: 8/31-9/4

#BeThe1To... ASK

Ask the tough question. When somebody you know is in emotional pain, ask them directly: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”

HOW: Asking the question “Are you thinking about suicide?” communicates that you’re open to speaking about suicide in a non-judgmental and supportive way. Asking in this direct, unbiased manner, can open the door for effective dialogue about their emotional pain and can allow everyone involved to see what next steps need to be taken. Other questions you can ask include, “How do you hurt?” and “How can I help?” Do not ever promise to keep their thoughts of suicide a secret.

The flip side of the “Ask” step is to “Listen.” Make sure you take their answers seriously and not to ignore them, especially if they indicate they are experiencing thoughts of suicide. Listening to their reasons for being in such emotional pain, as well as listening for any potential reasons they want to continue to stay alive, are both incredibly important when they are telling you what’s going on. Help them focus on their reasons for living and avoid trying to impose your reasons for them to stay alive.

WHY: Studies show that asking at-risk individuals if they are suicidal does not increase suicides or suicidal thoughts. In fact, studies suggest the opposite: findings suggest acknowledging and talking about suicide may in fact reduce rather than increase suicidal ideation.

Using the #BeThe1To Steps while Social Distancing

During times of physical distancing, you can use the same approach when asking someone if they are thinking about suicide. In addition to being generally alert for potential risk in all loved ones, it is useful to pay special attention to people that you know already struggle or have struggled in the past with emotional distress. Make sure to reach out more frequently to talk and check in and don’t wait for them to come to you to ask for help or connection. Helping people stay connected can help to prevent people from thinking about or acting on thoughts of suicide.

Virtual Events

QPR Gatekeeper Training
Friday, Sept. 4

• QPR Training for Students (1-2:30 p.m.)  |  Click here to register.

Online Resources

Warning Signs: Some signs to look for to help you determine if a loved one is at risk for suicide
Suicide Risk Factors: Characteristics that make it more likely that someone will consider, attempt, or die by suicide.
Preventing Suicide: A fact sheet on suicide, a leading cause of death in the U.S., from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.
Does asking about suicide and related behaviours induce suicidal ideation?: An editorial in Psychological Medicine

Week 2: 9/7-9/11


Is your friend thinking about suicide? Ask if they’ve thought about how they would do it and separate them from anything they could use to hurt themselves.

HOW: First of all, it’s good for everyone to be on the same page. After the “Ask” step, and you’ve determined suicide is indeed being talked about, it’s important to find out a few things to establish immediate safety. Have they already done anything to try to kill themselves before talking with you? Does the person experiencing thoughts of suicide know how they would kill themselves? Do they have a specific, detailed plan? What’s the timing for their plan? What sort of access to do they have to their planned method?

WHY: Knowing the answers to each of these questions can tell us a lot about the imminence and severity of danger the person is in. For instance, the more steps and pieces of a plan that are in place, the higher their severity of risk and their capability to enact their plan might be. Or if they have immediate access to a firearm and are very serious about attempting suicide, then extra steps (like calling the authorities or driving them to an emergency department) might be necessary. The Lifeline can always act as a resource during these moments as well if you aren’t entirely sure what to do next.

The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health notes that reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal means (or chosen method for a suicide attempt) is an important part of suicide prevention. A number of studies have indicated that when lethal means are made less available or less deadly, suicide rates by that method decline, and frequently suicide rates overall decline. Research also shows that “method substitution” or choosing an alternate method when the original method is restricted, frequently does not happen. The myth “If someone really wants to kill themselves, they’ll find a way to do it” often does not hold true if appropriate safety measures are put into place. The Keep Them Safe step is really about showing support for someone during the times when they have thoughts of suicide by putting time and distance between the person and their chosen method, especially methods that have shown higher lethality (like firearms and medications).

Using the #BeThe1To Steps while Social Distancing

Use the same questions as you normally would to determine if the person has considered how they would kill themselves, and if they have access to means. The same principles of putting time and space between the person and lethal means still apply here. You can use these questions/prompts to encourage the person to distance themselves from the means.

  • If the person has access to their means, have an honest conversation with them about what they could do to make it harder for them to access those means in a crisis, when they might be more inclined to act impulsively.
  • If the person has the means in hand while you are talking to them, ask if they could put it away from them while you talk. Call the Lifeline together.
  • After you talk, ask the person to think about the overall safety of their environment. Is there anything else in their home, like firearms, that should be protected against to put more time and space between them and the potential means, even if those means weren’t the person’s first intended plan?

Virtual Events

QPR Gatekeeper Training
Thursday, Sept. 10

• QPR Training for Employees (8:30-10 a.m.)  |  Click here to register.
• QPR Training for Students (7-8:30 p.m.)  |  Click here to register.

World Suicide Prevention Day Twitter Chat
Thursday, Sept. 10

Hosted by @800273TALK  |  Follow along with hashtag #BeThe1To

Online Resources

How Can a Safety Plan Help?: Having a plan in place that can help guide you through difficult moments can make a difference and keep you safe.

Week 3: 9/14-9/18

#BeThe1To... BE THERE

If your friend is thinking about suicide, listen to their reasons for feeling hopeless and in pain. Listen with compassion and empathy and without dismissing or judging.

HOW: This could mean being physically present for someone, speaking with them on the phone when you can, or any other way that shows support for the person at risk. An important aspect of this step is to make sure you follow through with the ways in which you say you’ll be able to support the person – do not commit to anything you are not willing or able to accomplish. If you are unable to be physically present with someone with thoughts of suicide, talk with them to develop some ideas for others who might be able to help as well (again, only others who are willing, able, and appropriate to be there). Listening is again very important during this step – find out what and who they believe will be the most effective sources of help.

WHY: Being there for someone with thoughts of suicide is life-saving. Increasing someone’s connectedness to others and limiting their isolation (both in the short and long-term) has shown to be a protective factor against suicide. Thomas Joiner’s Interpersonal-Psychological Theory of Suicide highlights connectedness as one of its main components – specifically, a low sense of belonging. When someone experiences this state, paired with perceived burdonsomeness (arguably tied to “connectedness” through isolating behaviors and lack of a sense of purpose) and acquired capability (a lowered fear of death and habituated experiences of violence), their risk can become severely elevated.

In the Three-Step Theory (more commonly known as the Ideation-to-Action Framework), David Klonsky and Alexis May also theorize that “connectedness” is a key protective factor, not only against suicide as a whole, but in terms of the escalation of thoughts of suicide to action. Their research has also shown connectedness acts as a buffer against hopelessness and psychological pain. By “being there,” we have a chance to alleviate or eliminate some of these significant factors.

Using the #BeThe1To Steps while Social Distancing

This step is very important in a world where we cannot be there physically – staying connected in other ways is needed. While being physically present may not be an option right now, there are still many other ways to be there for someone, including speaking with them on the phone/video phone, by text, through various online platforms. The important things to keep in mind when maintaining social connection through distance are the regularity and quality of the connection.

  • Establish the frequency in which the person would like you to check in with them, and then stick to that schedule.
  • When talking on the phone or video calling with them, ensure that you are present. Remove yourself from distractions so that you can focus on your conversation with the person.

Virtual Events

QPR Gatekeeper Training
Tuesday, Sept. 15

QPR Training for Employees (3:30-5 p.m.)  |  Click here to register.
QPR Training for Students (1-2:30 p.m.)  |  Click here to register.

Online Resources

Strategic Direction for the Prevention of Suicidal Behavior: "Promoting Individual, Family, and Community Connectedness to Prevent Suicidal Behavior" describes a five-year vision for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s work to prevent fatal and nonfatal suicidal behavior.

Week 4: 9/21-9/25


Help your friend connect to a support system, whether it’s 800-273- TALK (8255), family, friends, clergy, coaches, co-workers or therapists, so they have a network to reach out to for help.

HOW: Helping someone with thoughts of suicide connect with ongoing supports (like the Lifeline, 800-273-8255) can help them establish a safety net for those moments they find themselves in a crisis. Additional components of a safety net might be connecting them with supports and resources in their communities. Explore some of these possible supports with them – are they currently seeing a mental health professional? Have they in the past? Is this an option for them currently? Are there other mental health resources in the community that can effectively help?

One way to start helping them find ways to connect is to work with them to develop a safety plan. This can include ways for them identify if they start to experience significant, severe thoughts of suicide along with what to do in those crisis moments. A safety plan can also include a list of individuals to contact when a crisis occurs. The My3 app is a safety planning and crisis intervention app that can help develop these supports and is stored conveniently on your smartphone for quick access.

WHY: Impact of Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline found that individuals that called the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline were significantly more likely to feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful by the end of calls handled by Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training-trained counselors. These improvements were linked to ASIST-related counselor interventions, including listening without judgment, exploring reasons for living and creating a network of support.

Using the #BeThe1To Steps while Social Distancing

Helping people connect with other services that can support them is still possible while staying physically distant. Developing a safety plan is still an important step and can be done through the My3 app.
The Lifeline (800-273-8255) is another great option during times of distance – trained counselors are available to call or chat 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year.
Another option to allow people to feel connected by distance is the Vibrant Safe Space website. The Safe Space is home to resources and tools to provide you with some extra support in an emotionally safe environment.
A third option is to connect to a tele-mental health provider that can provide them with regular and consistent support from a mental health professional.

Virtual Events

QPR Gatekeeper Training
Wednesday, Sept. 23

QPR Training for Employees (3:30-5 p.m.)  |  Click here to register.
QPR Training for Students (7-8:30 p.m.)  |  Click here to register.

Online Resources

My3 app: With MY3 you can be prepared to help yourself and reach out to others when you are having thoughts of suicide.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.
IMAlive: More than 30 percent of people who call suicide hotlines hang up as soon as they hear a human voice. IMAlive is a live online network that uses instant messaging to respond to people in crisis.
The Trevor Project: The leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13–24.

visit UAB Cares

Explore additional mental health resources at UAB at Visit the UAB Cares Toolkit to download Suicide Prevention Month assets.

QPR for Suicide Prevention

As a trained QPR Gatekeeper, you’ll learn to recognize the warning signs of people in trouble, and will have the tools to act vigorously to prevent a suicide and save a life. This free virtual training program is offered via Zoom.

Visit and select a date to register.

Resources for Survivors