Help for Someone Else

Active MindsStatistics show that you are more likely to encounter someone (friend, student, coworker, or member of the community) in an emotional or mental health crisis than someone having a heart attack. Suicidal ideation is not because someone is wanting to die or that they are weak; rather, they are wanting to end the pain that has become unbearable. Being a caring person who can listen and find help may mean all the difference in a person’s life.

Suicidality is not a phase or a way to seek attention. Individuals who are suicidal are reaching out for help.

How can you tell if someone is at risk?

  • Is the person making direct statements about self or other harm with immediate thoughts/plan/means/access/intent?
  • Is the person under the influence of alcohol or drugs that could lead to harm?

What are the signs of suicide?

Is the person you are concerned about showing any of the signs listed below? Use the mnemonic "IS PATH WARM" as an easy way to learn and remember the signs of suicide

Letter Word Meaning
I Ideation Talking about suicide and wanting to die. Looking for ways to die, such as researching how to take one’s life.
S Substance abuse A sudden increase or excessive use of drugs or alcohol. Someone who does not use alcohol or drugs suddenly using them and in excess.
P Purposelessness Stating that there is no reason for living. Not having a sense of purpose in their life.
A Anxiety Agitation, difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much.
T Trapped Feeling trapped and feeling that there is no way out. Feeling that there is no need to seek help because it will not do anything.
H Hopelessness Feeling hopeless about the future or the negative events in their life.
W Withdrawal Withdrawing from friends, family, social activities and school.
A Anger Uncontrollable anger. Talking about seeking revenge.
R Recklessness Acting recklessly or participating in risky activities, seemingly without thinking.
M Mood changes Dramatic mood changes.

What do you do if you are concerned about another?

If there has been any self or other harm action taken by the distressed person, call 911 and the TMCC Police: 775-674-7900. In certain situations, you must often make a judgment call.

Mild Risk

Someone at mild risk (someone with a mental health concern without risk of suicide) can be provided with the contact information to the TMCC Counseling Center. You may also refer to the Counseling Center website for additional resources.

Always provide the person with the Crisis Call Lifeline (800-273-8255 [TALK]; veterans: press "1"). A person need not be suicidal to utilize these services. They will talk to distressed persons for a variety of reasons, from employment difficulties to finding help for another friend, or even if someone is just feeling lonely.

If you are still concerned, consult with the Counseling Center directly.

After hours, call the Crisis Call Lifeline (800-273-8255 [TALK]; veterans: press "1"). You may also use the online TMCC Incident Report Form.

High Risk

A person at a high risk for suicide will show the signs (see above for a list). They may make direct statements about self or other harm with an immediate plan. The person may have the means or access to ways to harm themselves. They may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs that could lead to harm.

Even without immediate plans or access to harmful means, a direct statement about suicide should be taken seriously. You may receive the information by a variety of sources: in-person, by phone or by email.

In Person

  • If it is between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., walk the student to the Counseling Center in RDMT 325.
  • If you can’t walk them over, call the TMCC Counseling Center at 775-673-7060. Notify them that there is a crisis. Stay with the person until help arrives.
  • If you are with the person after hours:
    • Call the TMCC Police at 775-674-7900.
    • If you are off-campus, call 911.
    • Again, stay with the student until help arrives.
  • As soon as possible, consult with the Counseling Center.

By Phone

  • Ask them their name, phone number, location, whether or not they are alone, and whether self or other harm action has been taken.
  • Have someone call 911 while you remain on the phone with them.
  • Keep the person on the phone.
  • If you lose contact, call 911 immediately.


  • Consult with the TMCC Counseling Center.
  • Save the email as you may be asked to forward the email to administration or the TMCC Counseling Center for review.
  • When responding to the at-risk individual by email:
    • Sincerely express concern/empathy.
    • Direct the student to the Counseling Center website for resource information.
    • Always include the Crisis Call Lifeline (800-273-8255) and the TMCC Counseling Center (775-673-7060).
    • Encourage the person to continue reaching out.
    • Request that they respond to your email so that you know they received it.
    • Be transparent about your actions. Tell the student that you want to ensure they receive the most comprehensive services available at TMCC, so you have reached out to the TMCC Counseling Center and/or TMCC Police.
    • Inform the person that they are not in trouble, you are just trying to find them help so that they will stay alive.

What can you say to a person in distress, while waiting for help?

When you are worried about someone, you may be concerned about saying or doing the wrong thing. It is not about saying exactly the right words. The important thing to do is to show you care. Listen to the person without judgment. Remain patient and accepting.

The conversation might seem negative and uncomfortable, but talking is always a positive step. Share campus resources and refer the person to the TMCC Counseling Center's website.

  • You can ask:
    • "How can I best support you right now?"
    • "When you have experienced difficulties in the past what has helped?"
  • Other things you can say:
    • "You are not alone in this. I am here for you."
    • "While I might not understand exactly how you feel, I care about you and I want to help."

What to expect after 911 or the TMCC Police have been notified

Except in cases of medical emergency, the police will respond. When the police arrive, the officers will want to have a conversation with the distressed person to understand the situation.

Police officers care first and foremost about their safety. They are there to support individuals in difficult situations. Neither the caller nor the person in distress are in trouble. The police will transport the distressed student to the hospital if needed unless it is a medical emergency, in which case paramedics will be notified.

In any crisis situation, after it has been resolved, the concerned other should consult with the TMCC Counseling Center for follow-up care. Seeing a friend in distress can be traumatic and it is important that you are able to talk to another about what had occurred.


Being an advocate for another person does not necessarily need to be learned. Empathetic individuals know when to help and being able to listen and be with a person in need is the most important thing. Regardless, additional trainings are always helpful.

If you have an interest in learning more about helping someone who is thinking of suicide, TMCC offers a variety of training opportunities to learn more about how to help a person thinking of suicide.

Two such trainings are the Gatekeeper Training and the ASIST Training.