Understanding Suicide Prevention

In spite of the popular image, suicide prevention is not about death and dying, people standing on the edge of a cliff and threatening to jump. Suicide prevention is about life and living and exploring options, recognizing people who are potentially suicidal as well as those who are currently depressed and in crisis, and helping them to get through their difficult times by providing them with additional coping tools, resources and support. Basically, letting them know they are not alone.

Though the majority of people who attempt suicide suffer from some form of mental illness, the “act” itself is usually precipitated by some trauma or tragedy, reversal or difficulty a person is experiencing that is tied to other personal, emotional or health problems—from a bad day to a broken heart to the breakup of a relationship or the loss of a job to the feelings of hopelessness and helplessness that can be tied to everything from domestic violence and child abuse to AIDS, cancer or post-traumatic stress. Among those groups most at risk for suicide are middle-age men, adolescents and the elderly, the chronic sick and mentally ill, those with alcohol and/or drug-related problems and victims of violence and abuse. But surprisingly suicide is also prevalent among people who are considered the most successful, gifted, and talented and who have an “elevated” status in our society such as doctors, lawyers, engineers and police officers.

Suicide prevention involves education that creates awareness about suicide, counters the stigma tied to mental illness and the many myths and misconceptions tied to suicide, an understanding of the warning signs and risk factors, the keys to communicating with, assessing and responding to someone who is depressed or in crisis and the resources and treatments that are available.

"We all need help coping with circumstances like [the feeling that you are isolated in a problem]. The people who have access to help externally or internally will be able to cope better. And the people who don't will then develop the clinical conditions that may increase their risk tremendously for things like clinical depression and alcoholism."

Dr. Yeates Conwell, Co-Director,
Center for the Study and Prevention of Suicide,
University of Rochester Medical Center

Research suggests that as many as 75% of the people who attempt suicide, do something or say something to let others know before they act, meaning there is a significant opportunity to intervene and provide help and support.

And since the same methods and approaches that teach us to identify and respond to someone who is potentially suicidal will also be effective for alcohol and substance abuse problems, domestic violence, people suffering from abuse, PTSD, traumatic loss or other chronic or significant illnesses, personal problems or reversals—Effective suicide prevention education and readiness enhances an organization’s safety net and ability to identify multiple problems and respond to them before they develop dramatic and/or tragic consequences.

Suicide Prevention Is Smart Business For Everyone