How you can play a role in preventing suicide
Why is suicide a public health problem?
Who is at risk for suicide?
There is no single cause of suicide. Several factors can increase a person’s risk for attempting or dying by suicide. However, having these risk factors does not always mean that suicide will occur.
Risk factors for suicide include:
- Previous suicide attempt(s)
- History of depression or other mental illness
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Family history of suicide or violence
- Physical illness
- Feeling alone
To learn more about suicide risk, go to cdc.gov/violenceprevention/suicide/riskprotectivefactors.html
How can we prevent suicide?
While its causes are complex, the goal of suicide prevention is simple – reduce factors that increase risk and increase factors that promote resilience or coping. With a public health approach, prevention occurs at all levels of society – from the individual, family, and community levels to the broader social environment.
Warning signs of suicidal behaviors
Everyone can play a role in preventing suicide by being aware of the warning signs of suicidal behaviors:
- Talking about wanting to die, feeling hopeless, trapped, in unbearable pain, or being a burden to others
- Looking for a way to kill oneself
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Displaying extreme mood swings
What you can do
If you believe someone is at risk of suicide:
- Ask them if they are thinking about killing themselves (This will not put the idea into their heads, or make it more likely that they will attempt suicide.)
- Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255)
- Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional
- Remove any objects that could be used in a suicide attempt
- If possible, do not leave the person alone
Do you or someone you know need help?
If you or someone else is experiencing a dangerous or life threatening emergency, please call 911 immediately.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, help is available:
National Strategy for Suicide Prevention: actionallianceforsuicideprevention.org/nssp
Virginia Department of Health Suicide Prevention Program: vdh.virginia.gov/ofhs/prevention/preventsuicideva/
Mental Health First Aid Training (MHFA): The Alexandria Department of Community and Human Services is offering MHFA. This 8-hour skills-based training enables you to help persons who are developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. More information about the training is available here, or visit the online registration form for class dates and registration.
For more information about MHFA, visit mentalhealthfirstaid.org.