Response to Suicide Threats and Attempts Among Faculty, Academic Professionals and Staff

The purpose of this policy is to establish uniform guidelines regarding when to respond how to respond and who to inform should there be an employee who threatens or attempts to commit suicide. The policy also establishes guidelines on who will coordinate the response to a suicide threat or attempt.

Suicide threats, gestures, and attempts among University employees are a cause for concern. Suicidal behavior is a sign of underlying psychological problems and a warning sign for actual suicide. The best predictor of suicide is a prior public display of suicidal intent. Research indicates that an adult who threatens or attempts suicide is 120 times more likely to kill himself or herself than an adult who has not threatened or attempted suicide. Contrary to popular belief, the ingestion of a small quantity of pills or the making of slight cuts on the wrists is just as predictive of eventual suicide as attempts that result in hospitalization. Among those threatening and attempting suicide, research shows that it is impossible to predict who is "serious" and who is not. Accordingly, all individuals threatening and attempting suicide are assumed to be at heightened risk of dying.

The University both encourages and expects employees to adhere to a standard of self-welfare and resolve problems and crises without resorting to self-directed violence. The University further expects members of the University community to report incidents of suicidal threats and attempts. Departments and units should direct their supervisory personnel to report these incidents to the Faculty/Staff Assistance Program. The number to call is 217-244-7739 which is the Faculty/Staff Assistance Program 24 hour crisis line for University employees, family members or members of an employee's immediate household.

The appropriate response to a medical emergency or to a situation of imminent suicidal risk is to call 911 (9-911 from campus phones).

  1. The University community is advised to report all suicide threats, attempts and preparatory efforts that have occurred in the previous three months to the Faculty/Staff Assistance Program. This includes incidents that have occurred at work as well as incidents that have occurred away from the workplace.
    1. When to Report
      1. Suicide threats in which an employee makes statements that leave a reasonable observer concerned for his or her safety. The statement might be made in person or in writing and might refer to means, motivation for dying, lack of motivation for living and/or anticipated date of death (i.e., "With Robert gone, I have no reason to go on."). Statements may be explicit or implicit (i.e., "You don't have to worry about me any more." Or "I won't be around much longer.").
      2. Preparatory efforts in which an employee engages in any action that prepares the way for eventual suicide (i.e., collecting pills, obtaining a gun permit, visiting a jump-site, giving away possessions).
      3. Suicide attempts in which an employee engages in actions with the intent to end his or her life (i.e., cuts on the wrist, taking pills with the intent to die).
      4. Persistent thoughts of suicide in which an employee reports being preoccupied or obsessed with suicide or thoughts of suicide. The individual might deny having a plan or desire to commit suicide (i.e. an employee reports thinking about suicide constantly every day for the last two weeks).
      5. Relief cutting in which an individual makes cuts to his or her body for purposes of relief and without the intent to end his or her life. If there is any doubt about an employee's motivation in cutting, consult with the Faculty/Staff Assistance Program.
    2. When Not to Report

      Passing remarks in which an employee makes references to dying or being dead in a joking or stereotyped fashion (i.e. "I would be better off dead," or, "Wouldn't it be nice to lay down and not wake up?") should be a cause for concern. It is recommended that members of the University community respond to such remarks with requests for additional information (i.e., “What did you mean when you said, 'I would be better off dead?'" or, "You said, 'Wouldn't it be nice to lay down and not wake up.' Do you ever think of killing yourself?”) Repeated references to dying that do not diminish in response to questioning should be reported.

    3. Who to Call

      All reports should be made to the Faculty/Staff Assistance Program at its 24-Hour Crisis Line, 217-244-7739. Faculty/Staff Assistance Program staff answer this phone during work hours. The phone is answered by an answering service outside of work hours that will direct a mental health professional to return the call immediately. The Faculty/Staff Assistance Program office hours are 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Monday through Friday. The phone number is 217-244-5312.

    4. In the event that the identified resource is not available, please send or take the employee to the nearest hospital emergency room.
  2. Guidelines for Responding to Reported Incidents of Threats and Attempts
    1. Face-to-Face Evaluation to Determine Lethality

      Upon receiving a report, at a minimum, the staff of the Faculty/Staff Assistance Program will make every effort to contact the employee and make an assessment of imminence and lethality. This meeting should take place as soon as possible. This assessment will include an exploration of the content, meaning and origin of the employee's suicidal intent.

    2. Three Additional Assessment Sessions

      In addition to the face-to-face evaluation, it is recommended that any employee reported to have made a suicide threat or attempt receive a minimum of three additional counseling sessions over the course of the following one to two months. These sessions can occur with the staff of the Faculty/Staff Assistance Program or with the employee's ongoing mental health professional. These sessions should occur regardless of whether the precipitating situation appears resolved and/or the employee denies the presence of ongoing suicidal intent.

    3. Notification of Employee's Mental Health Professional

      In accordance with state and federal statutes regarding confidentiality, if there is reason to believe that the employee is in ongoing treatment with a mental health professional, every effort will be made to contact the professional and provide him or her with the repor

  3. Guidelines for Responding to the Survivors of a Completed Suicide
    1. The University's Commitment Following a Completed Suicide
      In the unfortunate event that an employee commits suicide, the University will make every effort to provide services to coworkers, employees, bystanders and any other member of the University community affected by the employee's death.
    2. Services Available

      These services might include referral to the Faculty/Staff Assistance Program for one-on-one counseling. It might also include group informational meetings, debriefings, and/or memorials. These services might be provided by the Trauma Response Team of the Counseling Center , the Faculty/Staff Assistance Program and/or community resources.

    3. Coordination of Post-Suicide Services

      The Faculty/Staff Assistance Program will coordinate the delivery of these services.

PRIVACY AND CONFIDENTIALITY

The staff of the Faculty/Staff Assistance Program will adhere to all state and federal statutes regarding confidentiality. The FSAP staff will adhere to a basic premise of privacy under all circumstances.