Suicide Prevention

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and more than 100 lives are lost to suicide each day, according the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sadly, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that only half of Americans experiencing depression receive treatment but the American Panel Survey (TAPS) found that 80% -90% of those that seek treatment for depression are treated successfully. It’s important that those in crisis know that there is help available for them.

Suicide Warning Signs

If your loved one is displaying these warning signs, he or she may be having thoughts of suicide:

  • Talking about wanting to die, having no reason to live, feeling trapped, living in unbearable pain, or being a burden to others
  • Abusing or increasing use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated
  • Reckless behavior
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Isolating him or herself
  • Experiencing extreme mood swings
  • Preoccupation with death
  • Suddenly happier and/or calmer
  • Loss of interest in things he or she once cared about
  • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
  • Making arrangements and setting their affairs in order
  • Giving possessions away

What To Do

There are several misconceptions about suicide, but the most common misconception is that if someone is determined to kill him or herself, no one is going to stop him or her. This could not be any further from the truth. Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) says, “Even the most severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death, and most waiver until the very last moment between wanting to live and wanting to end their pain. Most suicidal people do not want to die; they want the pain to stop.”

If you are having thoughts of suicide:

  • Speak to a professional on a suicide prevention hotline:
    • National Hope Line: 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
    • The Help Line USA: 1-800-785-8111
    • Girls and Boys Town: 1-800-448-3000
    • Covenant House: 1-800-999-9999
    • The Trevor Project: 1-800-850-8078 (for gay or questioning youth)
  • Check yourself into the emergency room to get help.
  • Keep away from things that might hurt you.
  • Talk to your doctor about treatment options.

If a family member or friend is showing warning signs and/or has shared their thoughts of suicide with you:

  • Don’t lecture them or offer them advice.
  • Be non-judgmental when talking to them about their thoughts of suicide.
  • Share your feelings of concern for your loved one and offer hope that alternatives are available to them.
  • Offer empathy, not sympathy to your loved one.
  • Don’t make promises of secrecy. Your loved one’s life takes precedence over confidentiality.
  • Tell your loved one you will help them and don’t allow them to reject help.
  • Get a commitment from them not to attempt suicide.


Jaime Venditti, State Coordinator, New York Health Works