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Suicide Awareness Information

U.Va. like many universities across the nation, has been deeply impacted by the tragedy of suicide. We cannot afford to lose any person, especially a young, promising member of our community, in this devastating way.

Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) is offering the U.Va. community three important sets of resources in this document. These resources, which offer a beginning point for helping to keep our community safe, include: 1. Warning signs of emotional distress and suicidal risk, 2. Helpful interventions for students who you believe may be at risk, and 3. Information on suicide awareness trainings.

Warning Signs

We cannot “prevent” all suicides from happening, but we can be attentive to warning signs. Students who attempt suicide often communicate some signs that they are considering suicide. This mnemonic may be helpful in remembering some of these signs: “IS PATH WARM.”

I Ideation: Listen for any evidence of suicidal thoughts/ideation. Examples include references to “leaving” or wanting to be “gone.” If there is indication that the student may be experiencing thoughts of suicide, ask him/her directly about suicidal thinking (see “Interventions” below).
S Substance Abuse: Be aware that use of recreational substances, including alcohol (in combination with thoughts of suicide), is associated with higher risk for attempted suicide.
P Purposelessness: Loss of “drive” or decreased sense of meaning in a student’s endeavors can be cause for concern.
A Anxiety: The presence of anxiety in combination with depression can put a student at higher risk for a suicide attempt.
T Trapped: If a student feels that he or she has no good options for resolving a crisis, he or she may be more susceptible to suicidal thinking.
H Hopelessness: Lack of hope that circumstances can improve is one of the strongest correlates of suicide attempts.
W Withdrawal: Pulling back from friendships or social interactions is reason for concern.
A Anger: Signs of agitation or anger are more evidence that a student may be at risk.
R Recklessness: Impulsive behavior (or speech) are more reasons for concern.
M Mood Changes: Any emotional change from what is typical can put a student at higher risk.


  • Engage the student by expressing care and asking about his or her well-being. Relate any concerns directly to the student: “I’m worried about you. You seem down today. How are you doing?”
  • When in doubt, do not wait to ask the question, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” If the answer is “yes” or you sense hesitation, walk the student to CAPS – located in Elson Student Health at the corner of Jefferson Park and Brandon avenues. You can also call CAPS at 434-243-5150 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or call the CAPS after-hours service at 434-297-4261.
  • If you are concerned about a student, err on the side of making a referral to CAPS. There is no concern too small for a referral to CAPS.
  • Utilize resources on Grounds. If you are unsure how to approach a student or what to do, you can call CAPS for consultation at any time (see contact information above). A number of academic and administrative supports also are available for students who are dealing with mental health issues, including the Office of the Dean of Students (434-924-7133).
  • Follow up with the student. Checking in with a student in the days and weeks following your initial inquiry is one of the most effective ways to show care and support.

* As of July 1, 2015, Virginia state law requires faculty and staff to notify Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) when a student exhibits suicidal tendencies or behavior. If you have any concerns that a student may be suicidal, notify CAPS immediately.

Training Sessions

Please consider having CAPS provide a suicide awareness training session for your department or area. The earlier in the semester that you can schedule department-specific training, the better for our students. To schedule a training session, please contact Andrea Iglesias, CAPS assistant director for outreach, at 243-5150 or

Let’s come together to create the caring, supportive, and safe community to which we all aspire.


Nicole Ruzek and the CAPS Staff