Session 3 D

Ombuds as Sources of Help and Hope: Compassionately Exploring the Complexities of Campus Death by Suicide

Time: Tuesday 10:15 AM – 11:25 AM

Presenter(s): Katherine Greenwood, Executive Officer, University of Southern California; Kevin Coonrod,  – Learn more about these presenters by visiting the presenter page.

Level: Established


How might you react if a visitor begins talking about suicide during an office visit? Has there been a death by suicide on your campus? If so, have students come to you in the aftermath, searching for accommodations or help in processing the event? Possibly, you have seen professors seeking assistance in discussing the trauma in their classrooms or even staff wanting help in accessing campus resources. Whether you feel comfortable dealing with any of these scenarios or not, this workshop is an ideal place to explore individual and institutional approaches to dealing with this tragic topic. Ombuds, in fact, may be seeing an increase in visitors with concerns relating to suicidal ideation or death by suicide, because suicide is the second-leading cause of death in people aged 15–24, an age range that includes many college students. Suicide is complex. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention states “There is no single cause for suicide. Suicide most often occurs when stressors and health issues converge to create an experience of hopelessness and despair.” In times of grief, ombuds may be able to be a source of help and hope to their campus communities. Participants will collaboratively explore case-study scenarios to deepen their understanding about the topic of suicide. This interactive workshop is designed to provide ombuds with tools, including statistics, terminology, resources, best practices for communication, and even current legislative proposals relating to death by suicide on college campuses. Ombuds will also be invited to share their personal experiences and their campus procedures and with peers in order to facilitate thoughtful ways for each ombuds to reexamine and possibly refine their own office protocols. Together, ombuds participating in the workshop can strive to become more knowledgeable and more comfortable with this challenging topic.

Learning Objectives

  1. To raise awareness of the increasing rates of death by suicide on college campuses and explore how ombuds may serve their communities proactively and in times of grief.
  2. To increase awareness of terminology (e.g. "contagion" and "postvention"), provide resources, and explore various ombuds office protocols.
  3. To support each other and to increase comfort levels of identifying risks, asking appropriate questions, and using models such as QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer).
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