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Suicide Prevention

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255).

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for adolescents and the second leading cause of death for college-age youth. Surveys indicate that about a fourth of all high school students have thought about suicide.

There is no typical suicide victim. No age group, ethnicity or background is immune. Fortunately, many troubled individuals display behaviors deliberately or inadvertently to signal their suicidal intent. Recognizing the warning signs and learning what to do next may help save a life.

Talk to your children about suicidal behaviors—be assured it will not put the idea in their head; it is something you can and should talk about.

Warning Signs

The following signs may indicate a risk for suicide and should be watched closely. If they appear numerous or severe, seek professional help at once.

  • Talking about suicide, death and/or no reason to live
  • Preoccupation with death and dying
  • Withdrawal from friends and/or social activities
  • Experience of a recent severe loss (especially a relationship) or the threat of a significant loss
  • Experience or fear of humiliation or failure
  • Drastic changes in behavior
  • Loss of interest in hobbies, work, school, etc.
  • Preparation for death by making out a will (unexpectedly) and final arrangements
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • History of suicide attempts, as well as violence and/or hostility
  • Unnecessary risks; reckless and/or impulsive behavior
  • Loss of interest in personal appearance
  • Increased use of alcohol and/or drugs
  • General hopelessness
  • Unwillingness to connect with potential helpers

Nearly everyone at some time thinks about suicide. Most decide to live because they realize that the crisis is temporary, but death is not. On the other hand, people in the midst of a crisis often perceive their dilemma as inescapable and feel an utter loss of control. Frequently, they:

  • Can’t stop the pain
  • Can’t think clearly
  • Can’t sleep, eat or work
  • Can’t get out of the depression
  • Can’t make decisions
  • Can’t see any way out
  • Can’t seem to get control
  • Can’t make sadness go away
  • Can’t see a possibility of change
  • Can’t get someone’s attention
  • Can’t see themselves as worthwhile

WHAT DO YOU DO?

  • Be aware. Learn the warning signs.
  • Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.
  • Ask if he or she is thinking about suicide.
  • Be direct. Talk openly and freely about suicide.
  • Be willing to listen. Allow for expressions of feelings, and accept those feelings.
  • Be nonjudgmental. Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or feelings are good or bad. Don’t lecture on the value of life.
  • Don’t dare him or her to do it.
  • Don’t give advice by making decisions for someone else, or by telling them to behave differently.
  • Don’t ask why. This encourages defensiveness.
  • Offer empathy, not sympathy.
  • Don’t act shocked. This creates distance.
  • Don’t be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.
  • Offer hope that alternatives are available. Do not offer glib reassurance; it only proves you don’t understand.

Take action. Remove means. Get help from individuals or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention.

WHOM CAN YOU TALK TO?

  • A community mental health agency
  • A private therapist
  • A school counselor or psychologist
  • A family physician
  • A suicide prevention/crisis intervention center
  • A religious/spiritual leader

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) provides access to trained telephone counselors, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is available for crisis calls as well as for information, for support and for discussing suicide with a youth at risk.

Youth Mental Health First Aid

Remember, there is hope for building resilience on the path to recovery. Resources like Youth Mental Health First Aid, a training program for adults that is managed by the National Council for Behavioral Health, can help adults assist youth (ages 12-18) who are experiencing a mental health or addiction challenge or crisis. The program, primarily designed for adults who are in contact regularly with young people, teaches a five-step action plan for how to help young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations.

Additional Resources

Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network is a statewide public-private organization made up of health and mental health professionals, consumers, attempters, survivors and other interested individuals. Their site is loaded with information for people who need help now, and those who want to learn more about suicide and how to help others.

Links to more information about youth suicide can be found by visiting:

Get information for crisis services in Tennessee.

You’ll find care centers and toll-free crisis numbers all across the state.