A growing concern among the college population is the loss of students by suicide. Our community has not been immune to that loss. Penn College engages in campus-wide initiatives designed to increase awareness of suicide, including educational campaigns, presenting to faculty and staff about warning signs and appropriate actions, and training for students and student leaders. In addition, all first-year students learn about depression and suicide during their FYE classes, and counselors are frequently asked to present on related mental health topics.
Suicide prevention hotlines
National, state and local suicide prevention hotlines, providing free, 24/7, confidential support to people in crisis.
- 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- TTY: 1-800-799-4889
This free and confidential national crisis line is for anyone who needs emotional support, and is available by phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Text HOME to 741741
The Crisis Text Line provides free emotional support and information in any type of crisis, including feeling suicidal. Trained specialists are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
If you are a person of color, you can connect with a trained crisis counselor of color.
- Text STEVE to 741741
- 1-800-273-8255 press 1
- Text to 838255
If you’re a Veteran in crisis or concerned about one, there are caring, qualified VA responders standing by to help 24/7.
Crisis Intervention Services
- Counseling Services- Campus Center Room 204, Monday - Friday 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
After Hours: Faculty, staff, and students should call 911 or the Penn College Police with emergency concerns. Please do not contact Counseling Services by email, since this is not monitored 24 hours/day. Students living on campus can contact their Resident Assistant or Residence Life Coordinator.
- College Health Services- Campus Center Room 150, Monday - Friday 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
- Penn College Police- (570) 321-5555 Available 24/7
- UPMC Susquehanna- Williamsport Emergency Room
700 High Street
- Wise Options 24-hour crisis hotline
Mental Health Services
- Counseling Services- Campus Center Room 204, Monday - Friday 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Counseling Services provides psychotherapy and supportive services to students in a safe, caring, and confidential environment. Services promote psychological well-being, which helps students achieve their personal and academic potential and fosters student resilience and success in college and beyond. Counselors promote self-awareness, teach effective self-care and wellness strategies, and encourage personal responsibility and empowerment. Counselors also provide responsive consultation, outreach, and educational programming to students, staff, and faculty. Counselors function in an inclusive and professional atmosphere and aspire to the highest clinical and ethical standards of care, including a sensitivity to the impact of diversity on individuals and the community.
- College Health Services- Campus Center Room 150, Monday - Friday 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. College Health Services provides holistic care related to the health and wellness of the college community to assist each member in being a productive member of society. This is accomplished through the promotion of individual and campus wide health and wellness education, prevention programs, and the care of individuals with acute and chronic illnesses, injuries, or health issues.
- Diakon Family Life Services
- (570) 322-7873
- (866) 244-5760
- 435 West Fourth Street, Williamsport, PA
- River Valley Health & Dental Center
- (570) 567-5400
- 471 Hepburn Street, Williamsport, PA
- West Branch Drug & Alcohol Abuse Commission
- (570) 323-8543
- (888) 941-2721
- 213 West Fourth Street, Second floor, Williamsport, PA
- Community Services Group
- (570) 323-6944
- (877) 907-7970
- Water Tower Square 1000 Commerce Park Drive, Suite 110, Williamsport, PA
- Williamsport Family Medical Center
- (570) 505-1123
- 2062 Lycoming Creek Road, Suite 8, Williamsport, PA
- Crossroads Counseling
- (570) 323-7535
- 501 East Third Street, Williamsport, PA
What You Should Know
Depression is a serious mental health condition. When left untreated, symptoms of depression (or other mental illness) can worsen to the point where thoughts of suicide may emerge. At some point in life, many individuals have thoughts of suicide, with no intent to act upon the thoughts. A combination of stressors, complicated by untreated mental illness, may lead to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. As thoughts become more specific, for instance, having a specific plan in mind, risk of attempted or completed suicide increases. Note the following signs/symptoms of depression, or other possible mental illness below. If you recognize these symptoms in yourself or another, read about “Intervention- How to Help.”
Symptoms of Depression and other Mental Illness
- Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, helplessness
- Lack of enjoyment/interest in formerly pleasurable activities
- Often feeling sad, down, ‘blah’
- Lack of motivation
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sleep and/or appetite changes
- Frequent crying
Not everyone who suffers from mental illness has suicidal thoughts. It is the combination of untreated mental health concerns, high stress, and exhaustion of coping skills that increases risk.
Recognize Common Warning Signs
A person who is thinking of suicide may express some of the following signs:
- Expressions of depression, anxiety, stress, and feeling of hopelessness about the future
- Feeling like a burden to others
- Unbearable pain
- Increased conflicts with or aggression/hostility toward others
- Withdrawal from family, friends, and activities once enjoyed
- Increased use of alcohol and/or other drugs or engages in reckless behaviors
- Increased agitation or irritability
- Talking or writing about death and dying, killing oneself, or “ending it all”
- Giving away belongings or tying up loose ends
- Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
- Relief/sudden improvement
- Looking for a way to end their life, such as searching online for methods. Gaining access to guns, pills, knives, etc.
Recognize Risk Factors
- Previous suicide attempt
- History of psychiatric diagnosis, alcohol and other substance use disorders
- Recent discharge from psychiatric inpatient treatment
- Recent job or financial loss
- Recent loss of relationship
- Easy access to lethal means of self-harm
- Lack of social support, healthcare, or mental health services
Intervention - How to Help
- Express care and concern
- Discuss specific behaviors- Let the person know you have noticed without blaming or shaming them. (Example: “I noticed the past few times we’ve gone to the Capital Eatery together with friends, you stay behind and rarely eat. You seem to be sad a lot, too. I’m concerned about you and wanted to see if you wanted to talk.”)
- Know options for help- Counseling Services, College Health Services, and Disability Services all have staff members who are there to help students. The Academic Success Center is available for students whose stressors are focused on an academic class. Financial Aid may be able to provide helpful information for students experiencing financial issues. You might offer one or more of these options as a source of support and even offer to walk there with the person of concern.
Not everyone feels comfortable directly confronting someone they feel is struggling. If you feel unsure of what to say or how to go about approaching the conversation, there are other ways to address the situation.
- Describe your concerns to your RA or Coordinator
- Speak to the advisor of an organization in which you are involved
- Consult with an instructor that you trust
- Speak to another staff member who may be familiar with college resources
- Call and consult with a counselor at Counseling Services who can share ideas about how to speak with the person of concern, or help you manage your own stress surrounding the situation.
A Word for Survivors
The grief process for survivors of suicide (those left behind after a friend or a loved one completes suicide) is as difficult as any other loss, with the added challenges associated with common feelings such as confusion, guilt, despair, disbelief, and anger. Some things for survivors to remember are:
- Each person experiences grief in their own way and at their own pace
- You may feel overwhelmed by the intensity and variety of feelings you are experiencing, which is expected.
- Take one day at a time. You may start to feel more “normal” as your intense emotions settle down. If emotions return like a tidal wave, though it is often a part of the grieving process, it may indicate the need to seek counseling.
Survivors of suicide can find immense benefit in coming together with each other to feel less alone in their grief, to feel support from others who share a similar sense of loss, and to remember the loved one who was lost. Counseling Services can offer support for anyone grieving the loss of a loved one.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has resources for those who have lost a friend or loved one.
Penn College’s postvention plan (login required) outlines predetermined strategies to effectively and sensitively respond to campus deaths after they occur. The plan outlines steps to support the campus community by facilitating the grieving or adjustment process, stabilizing the environment, and reducing the risk of negative behaviors.
The protocol outlines:
- the purpose of the protocol
- the definition of postvention and its associated goals (supporting the campus community)
- immediate steps upon notification of a student death
- guidelines for family outreach
- postvention team/committee and their responsibilities
- community support meeting guidelines
- safe messaging and best practices to avoid suicide contagion
Student Communication Plans
- Handout distributed in First Year Experience (FYE) class on the first day of class. “Anxious or stressed about starting college? Well, you’re not alone. These next few weeks will be critical for your ongoing adjustment. Here are some tips!” Tips are listed, and students are encouraged to reach out for help. Counseling Services contact information is provided.
- Promote Crisis Text Line and Mental Health Screenings on LED screens across campus. Mental Health Screening
- Suicide prevention lesson in FYE to occur during first three weeks of the semester. Kognito’s At-Risk for Students is an online interactive gatekeeper training, designed to help improve coping and helping skills. The training helps students to identify common signs of distress and learn more about the resources available. It shows students how to have challenging conversations with friends and peers around mental health and how to motivate them to seek help from campus support services.
Student Online Gatekeeper Training
Students can create an account by clicking the link below and using the enrollment key provided.
Contact Counseling Services (570) 327-4765 to obtain the Enrollment Key for Penn College
Additional Campus Suicide Prevention Efforts
QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) Gatekeeper program
Penn College trains students, staff, and faculty to learn how to identify students who are struggling, how to reach out, and how to refer to resources on campus. Training focuses on those who interact regularly with students to spot signs of distress (ex. annual training for RA’s)
Behavioral Intervention Team
Meets regularly to identify students of concern and intervene with students before a crisis occurs. The team’s evaluation of early warning signs and targeted intervention may steer a distressed student to seek help. The team is comprised of representatives from: Residence Life, College Health Services, Counseling Services, Disability Services, Academic Success Center, and Student Affairs. The team is led by the Associate Dean of Student Affairs and meets every other week during the academic year.
Penn College conducts an annual environmental scan of campus (involving Penn College Police and General Services staff) to examine rooftops, atriums, windows, security of toxic substances, etc. Safety items are brought to the attention of the College Safety Committee, which meets monthly. Penn College has installed a pill collection receptacle in College Health Services and encourages the college community to safely dispose of any expired or unused medications.