Suicide Prevention

If you are in crisis, call:
1-800-273-TALK (8255)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

I am Struggling

You are not alone in going through a hard time. It is very common for people to feel down and have thoughts of suicide when life is especially challenging.

There IS help and much of it is free and only a click or phone call away 

Crisis Hotlines:

National Suicide Prevention Hotline800-273-TALK
Veterans’ dedicated line – 800-273-TALK (then press 1)
LGBTQ Youth – The Trevor Project – 866-488-7386
Behavioral Health Response Team – 845-517-0400

Prevention and Research Info:

American Association of Suicidology
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
NYS Office of Mental Health
Suicide Prevention Resource Center
Veterans Suicide Prevention
Suicide and Depression Awareness for Students

 

Support Groups and Other Referrals:

NAMI-FAMILYA helpline for families of those with mental illness, education and support groups

United Way Referral Info  – Dial 211

I am Struggling

You are not alone in going through a hard time. It is very common for people to feel down and have thoughts of suicide when life is especially challenging.

There IS help and much of it is free and only a click or phone call away 

Crisis Hotlines:

National Suicide Prevention Hotline800-273-TALK
Veterans’ dedicated line – 800-273-TALK (then press 1)
LGBTQ Youth – The Trevor Project – 866-488-7386
Behavioral Health Response Team – 845-517-0400

Prevention and Research Info:

American Association of Suicidology
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
NYS Office of Mental Health
Suicide Prevention Resource Center
Veterans Suicide Prevention
Suicide and Depression Awareness for Students

 

Support Groups and Other Referrals:

NAMI-FAMILYA helpline for families of those with mental illness, education and support groups

United Way Referral Info  – Dial 211

I am Grieving

Losing someone to suicide is a unique kind of loss. It brings out many questions, such as “Why did this happen?”

Families, friends, colleagues, therapists and others who have lost people to suicide often find comfort in talking with others who have experienced a similar loss.

While suicide is usually intensely shocking to those surviving a loss, the reality is that over 32,000 people die by suicide every year in the United States. And these are confirmed deaths by suicide – the actual number of such deaths is likely much higher.

There are support groups for those who are surviving a loss to suicide, including a group at MHA Rockland.

Support groups

Downloads:
Survivor of Suicide Group Meeting Flyer »

I am Concerned About Someone

Are you worried about the emotional wellbeing of someone you care about?

If so, you probably have good reason to be concerned.

People who are struggling with suicidal thoughts often work hard to keep those thoughts a secret. They may not want to worry you or they may be uncomfortable talking with doctors. This makes it much more challenging for friends, family, and even professionals to accurately assess a person’s mental health.

In addition, some of the warning signs might surprise you. For instance, did you know that a sudden improvement in mood may actually suggest an increased risk of suicide?

Please read on to learn more about warning signs and how you can help someone you care about find mental health services.

Warning Signs

There are many warning signs of possible suicide risk that might seem obvious – such as depressed mood, eating/sleeping much too little or too much, withdrawing from others, and discontinuing activities that were once enjoyed. Other signs are not at all obvious and may in fact be quite surprising.

One of the biggest warning signs of suicide is having thoughts about ending one’s life, even without any intention of acting on them. Understandably people who are outside the mental health field are often afraid to ask about such thoughts.

The truth is that people tend to feel relieved when a friend or family member asks if they’ve been thinking about suicide or imagined sleeping forever. That is because if you’re thinking of asking the question, you probably have good reason. You will open the door to honest discussion by gently inquiring about such thoughts. If you’re told “No, I’m not thinking about that” don’t assume this is true or false. Keep your eyes open for warning signs. And don’t worry about raising the subject of suicidal thoughts – researchers strongly recommend open discussion rather than avoiding the subject.

Many people periodically have thoughts of suicide over the course of their lives. This can make it very difficult for loved ones – and even professionals – to know when hospitalization may be necessary.

One warning sign that you might not have connected to suicide is agitation. If the person you’re concerned about shows signs of agitation or anxiety in combination with recent suicidal thoughts, you should contact a mental health professional right away and do what you can to stay with the person until given professional advice. This is because agitation can lead to impulsive behavior.

The same is true if you hear your loved one express feelings of shame or guilt (e.g. over losing a job or a break-up in a relationship) while also having had recent thoughts of suicide.

In addition, if your loved one has made a suicide attempt in the past – even the far distant past – you should consider him/her to be at higher risk, particularly when showing signs of anxiety or shame.

Another risk factor that often goes under the radar is medication. Medications used for mental illness can be very helpful, but they take time – usually several weeks – to kick in. Some medications – including anti-depressants – are believed to increase the likelihood of suicide when they are first started. One reason is that some people will feel their energy level increasing before their mood improves. They may now have the energy to act on their thoughts. This means that you should pay extra attention to changes in mood and behavior whenever a person alters their medication or dosages.

Perhaps one of the most surprising warning signs of suicide risk is a sudden improvement in mood that occurs without explanation following a prolonged period of sadness. Sometimes this happens because the person has made a decision about how to end their life and feels in having a plan. Quite understandably, family members are often relieved to see their loved one smiling for a change and typically do not question why this is happening. Rather than assuming that everything is okay now, it is best to seek professional advice immediately.

Highlights of Warning Signs

  • Sudden improvement in mood without clear explanation
  • Stopped taking any prescribed meds
  • Giving possessions away
  • New medications or new dosages
  • Agitation with recent suicidal thoughts
  • Feelings of shame or guilt
  • Intoxication or other impairment in someone who has been depressed

How To Ask About Suicidal Thoughts

OK – I’ll ask the question about suicidal thoughts – but HOW????
 
Just remember – you have reason to be concerned, so start with that.  In a gentle, non-judgmental tone of voice, comment on what you’ve noticed that worries you.  Here’s an example:
 
 “Mary, I’ve noticed lately that you don’t seem like yourself.    Whenever we get together, you seem really down and quiet.  And you often cancel our plans at the last minute, which just isn’t like you.  From what you’ve told me, you’re not sleeping well and you hardly touch what’s on your plate when we eat out.  And you’re saying that it’s become really hard to concentrate at work…
 
Then ask the question about suicidal thoughts:
 
“Sometimes when people feel this way, they’re having thoughts of suicide. I’m wondering if you’ve been having those thoughts.”
 
Wait for an answer and show your compassion.
 
If the person says “yes” to your question, show that you hear how much pain they’re in.
“Sounds like you’re in so much emotional pain right now.”
 
Agree to discuss suicide.
This is really important, Mary.  We need to talk about the suicidal thoughts you’ve been having.”
Notice how we ask about suicidal thoughts, NOT about being suicidal.  That’s because  the word “suicidal” means different things to people.  Asking about suicidal thoughts is much more clear.
Then find help.
“Mary, I’d like to get some professional advice on how to be most helpful to you.  Can we call your doctor, therapist, etc?”
 
OR
 
“Why don’t we make a call to a hotline that I know about?  They can help us both figure out how to keep you safe.”  (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK) www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
 
If a hospital visit is needed, ask the right questions
Hospitals are under tremendous pressure to keep people in the hospital only for as long as is absolutely “medically necessary.”  This means that more and more recovery following surgery, childbirth, cancer treatments, and mental health conditions (among other issues) takes place at home.
This places an additional burden on loved ones, particularly following a psychiatric crisis.  After a psychiatric hospitalization – or emergency room visit – the doctor may determine that a person is safe to go home but that individual will still need a great deal of support as h/she may still be at significant – although not immediate – risk of suicide.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to ask all the questions you can think before the discharge plan is signed.  In fact, it’s perfectly acceptable to say to hospital staff  “we would rather have one more discussion with the doctor before signing the discharge plan.”  And you are always entitled to ask to speak with a doctor.
Ask hospital staff:
  • What has changed that tells you that my loved one is now safe?
  • What changes in his/her mood and behavior do you expect to happen and when as a result of the new medication?
  • What should alert me to a problem?
  • Who is available to help us after-hours?
  • What treatment is recommended as a next step?
  • Do we have an actual appointment time set up with another provider? (This should happen before the discharge plan is signed.)
  • Is my loved one safe to be home alone and, if so, for how long?
  • What arrangements can be made for transportation to his/her next appointment (if transportation is an issue)?
  • What local resources are available to help family/friends and patients?

Resources

Rockland County Suicide Prevention Task Force
The Rockland County Suicide Prevention Task Force is a multi-disciplinary “think tank” consisting of hospitals, schools, social service agencies, self-help organizations, and governmental departments that have come together to address suicide prevention. Spearheaded by the Mental Health Association of Rockland County, the Suicide Prevention Task Force:

  • hosted trainings on how to ask someone about suicidal thinking and respond as needed,
  • produced a brochure for people who are concerned for loved one,
  • launched a webpage with suicide prevention strategies and links to other resources

Downloads:
Survivor of Suicide Group Meeting Flyer »