Last semester was my first semester as an RA. I had a floor of 67 coed first-year students. Late in the year, one of my residents, who had become a friend of mine, killed himself. I found him in his room within 2 hours after he hung himself. It was one of the most devastating events in my life. As I battle with the aftermath and the flood of emotions, I can find few positive aspects of this ordeal. Hopefully, I can help other people prevent what I am going through now.
First of all, I am quickly learning that it takes time to heal. It takes time to move on from the trauma and the pain. Allow yourself that time to work through your grief and your loss.

Allow yourself the right to talk about it and give yourself permission to seek professional help. In my case, the University Counseling Center was unable to treat me because, as a staff member, I had to work with them to get through this tough time. The University was able and willing to pay for me to see an outside professional.

Try not to blame yourself or assign all the responsibility on yourself. I know that it is hard to listen to that and even if you do listen, you probably won’t believe it. I don’t. But I hope to work to the conclusion that the person who committed suicide did it in solitude. There was no way for you to prevent it from happening.

Listen to others who knew him or her. They are going through a similar grieving process and you can help one another get through this.

Be prepared for the legal consequences of the action. In the death of any student on campus, there are usually some kind of legal ramifications that can occur a long time after the suicide.

Realize that even if you are aware of the signs of depression and suicidal people, you are not a professional or an expert in this area.

Organize or help with a vigil or a small memorial of some sort. However, be aware that sometimes suicide is “contagious” and that by glorifying suicide or victims of suicide, some people will resort to suicide for the attention they feel comes of the act. Some sort of closure is necessary for recovery.

Utilize the resources in your community. There are Suicide Survivor Support Groups around the country.

If you know someone who is a suicide survivor (someone who knew the person who killed himself), do not alienate that person or talk about them behind their backs—it is obvious and painful.


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