The Center for Collaborative Counseling and Psychiatry and all of our staff are focused on promoting awareness about the issue of suicide, reduce stigma, and initiate change. The month gives all of us an opportunity to focus on this very difficult topic. Suicide impacts people in many ways. It often has a
devastating effect on families, friends, and communities. The statistics are staggering, According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 700,000 people die by suicide
each year. But it can be preventable. Everyone at every level can help.
My experience as a psychologist has taught me that the signs and symptoms of suicidal
behavior aren’t always obvious, but most people show some signs they are contemplating
suicide. The signs may appear in conversations, through their actions, or in social media posts.
Recognizing the warning signs is the first step in preventing suicide. Below are some signs that a person may be crisis and may be contemplating suicide.
- Loss of interest
- Reckless behavior
- Sudden changes in mood
- Substance abuse
- Giving away belongings
- Seeking methods for self-harm, such as searching online or obtaining a gun
- Talking about death or suicide
- Saying goodbye
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
If any of these symptoms are observed, it is time to start a conversation with the person.
Finding the words to start this conversation can be very difficult. Here are some tips to get the
- Plan out your conversation ahead of time and have crisis resources ready
- Do your best to listen, express concern and offer reassurance
- Create a safety plan (ask the person if they have access to lethal means of suicide, remove the person from the vicinity of lethal means of suicide)
- Get help. Provide the person with person with resources that you have prepared (i.e., a counselor’s phone number, suicide hotline number, call 911).
This conversation can be very difficult, but when a person is suicidal, the effort to engage the
person can be a matter of life and death. One question I often receive from family members or
friends of someone who is suicidal is “what shouldn’t I say?” It is very important to listen to the
reasons the person has for both living and dying. Validate that the person is actually
considering both options and stress that living is an option for them. Don’t say something like
“You’re not thinking of doing something stupid, are you?”
You are not alone
For those of us helping someone who is suicidal, it is incredibly important to remember that we
are not alone. There are resources to assess, intervene and prevent suicide. Here are some
resources to keep in mind when helping someone who is suicidal.
- Individuals can now dial 9-8-8 for a mental health emergency. On July 16, the 10-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline transitioned to 988 – an easy-to-remember 3-digit number for 24/7 crisis care.
- The Trevor Project: (866) 488-7386 provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer questioning, intersex, agender (LGBTQIA+) and young people ages 13-24.
If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts or are in crisis, our clinicians at The
Center for Collaborative Counseling and Psychiatry are here to assess, treat and prevent
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness month
Michael D. Gara, Psy.D.
The Center for Collaborative Counseling and Psychiatry