September is Suicide Prevention Month in New York City

In honor of the 30 days that will comprise Suicide Prevention Month in New York City, Samaritans presents “30 Things To Think About Working Together To Prevent Suicide.”

1. Nationally, there were 38,364 reported suicides in the U.S., surpassing the number of deaths by motor vehicle accidents (33,687) in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (released May 2, 2013).

2. Suicide is the 4th leading cause of death for individuals 15-34 years old in NYC, 6th for individuals 35-44 and there were more suicides in NYC last year than homicides.

3. Changing The Conversation—Suicide prevention is not about death and dying but life and living and exploring options, how we help people get through their difficult times.

4. Anyone can experience the depressive, stressful or traumatic feelings that can lead to suicide, no matter what their education, economic or social standing or personal relationships.

5. A key element in identifying those people who are potentially suicidal and saving lives is in being able to recognize the circumstances and environments that can increase an individual’s risk for suicide and the behaviors and states of mind that are warning signs of depression.

6. Over 5,000,000 Americans have attempted suicide, with women attempting three times more frequently than men, but men being four times more likely to die.

7. A closer look at the pattern of completed suicides among individuals served by the public mental health system in inpatient settings shows that the risk of a completed suicide is substantially higher soon after discharge from the hospital than during hospitalization.… (“Getting to the Goal, Suicide as a Never Event in New York State,” August 2013)

8. You can’t be listening, if you are doing all the talking.

9. Over 5,000,000 Americans have lost a loved one to suicide, with research suggesting that each loss directly impacts at least six people; meaning that over 600 individuals become a suicide survivor in this country every day.

10. The staff and volunteers of America’s 600 suicide prevention and crisis response hotlines provide a safety net, a lifeline, for people throughout the country who are depressed, in distress, experiencing trauma, a dramatic loss, chronic or terminal illness and need someone to talk to.

11. Just because we do not understand another person’s thoughts or way of expressing him or herself, does not make them irrational or “mentally ill.”

12. A previous attempt is the leading indicator of suicide risk, with alcohol and substance abuse a factor in about 30% of all suicides; 7% of individuals with alcohol dependence will die by suicide. Ready access to lethal means increases suicide risk in individuals with depression.

13. You never know what anybody is thinking; you never know what anybody is feeling.  When you think you do, it is not about them but about you.

14. The goal of “postvention” is to ease or reduce the devastating effects of a loss by suicide and the grieving process for those impacted, to increase their “protective factors” and support network and to encourage resilience and the use of effective coping tools (like engaging family members and/or spiritual support, maintaining involvement in current activities, utilizing resources like hotlines and counseling, attending support groups).

15. Remember what you did and did not want when you were in crisis and, instead of giving advice and trying to solve people’s problems for them, listen to what they are going through and how they feel about it.

16. The National Institute for Mental Health reports that 26% of adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder annually and the National Mental Health Association states that 60% do not receive psychological services.

17. Most people who attempt suicide don’t want to die they just can’t handle the overwhelming and unrelenting pain they are experiencing.

18. In NYC, 64% of those who died from suicide had a documented history of depression, 8% had a history of schizophrenia, and 5% had a history of anxiety. (“Suicide and Self-Inflicted Injuries in New York City,” NYC Vital Signs, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Vol. 10, Number 2, June 2011)

19. “Promote the adoption of ‘zero suicides’ as an aspirational goal by health care and community support systems that provide services and support to defined patient populations.” (Objective 8.1 of the US Surgeon General’s National Strategy on Suicide Prevention)

20. Silence is meant to be shared, not filled.

21. The Disaster Preparedness Task Force of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry’s report on Hurricane Katrina found “persistently high rates of adverse physical and mental health were reported for all ages from very early after the disaster, with most survivors being undertreated or untreated.  One year after the hurricane, suicidal ideation in the population as a whole was present in 6.4% of individuals surveyed and serious mental illness was increased by 89.2%, PTSD by 31.9%, and suicidality by 61.6% from baseline levels.”

22. We don’t solve other people’s problems for them, it is hard enough to handle our own.

23. More people in the world die from suicide than warfare and homicide combined.

24. The need for suicide prevention training applies to even some of the most highly educated health providers, physicians, as noted in, “The effect of adherence to practice guidelines on depression outcomes” Hepner KA, Rowe M, Rost K, et al. Ann Intern Med. 2007;147:320-329 which found that …suicidal thoughts and suicidal behavior are poorly managed, with suicidal ideation assessed in only 24% of patients [within the study].

25. Talking about suicide with someone in distress DOES NOT make them suicidal.

26. “Reasons for Not Receiving Mental Health Services in the Past Year Among Adults Aged 18 or Older with an Unmet Need for Mental Health Care Who Did Not Receive Mental Health Services” (SAMHSA, 2011). This study provides important insight into the reasons 4.9 million adults aged 18 or older did not receive mental health services that year, including:

  • 16%  did not know where to go for services
  • 15%  did not have the time
  • 10%  thought treatment would not help
  • 8% might cause neighbors/community to have negative opinion
  • 7% did not want others to find out
  • 7% might have negative effective on job
  • 7% fear of being committed/having to take medication
  • 6% concerned about confidentiality

27. Suicide is an ambivalent act, many times people who are determined to die and attempt suicide, ultimately, change their mind and seek help.

28. If you are afraid of the dark it is better to be sitting holding someone’s hand than sitting alone.

29. Responding to a person who is in distress or suicidal is oft en an ongoing process that requires a consistent level of follow-up, support and utilization of resources. For the benefit of the person you are helping as well as yourself, do not go it alone. Implement a multi-faceted team approach consisting of family, health professionals, members of the community, colleagues, etc. to ensure the best results and prevent caregiver stress and burnout.

30. To reduce the number of suicides and save lives, most suicide prevention experts agree the primary goal should be to reduce access to lethal means and increase protective factors.


Further Reading….

Learn more about suicide and the keys to effective suicide prevention

Responding to someone who is depressed or in crisis

Warning signs and risk factors for suicide

Myths about suicide

From Samaritans Blog…

The Other Side Of Suicide


Samaritans Crisis Response Hotline (212) 673-3000

You can call us at any hour if you or someone you know is feeling overwhelmed, in crisis, depressed or suicidal.  We are here to listen and provide you with support, 24/7.  Every call is free, confidential and anonymous (you don’t have to reveal your name). Call (212) 673-3000.