Preventing Suicide is Hard…Even for Professionals

May 30, 2019


Suicide is one mental health issue deserving of greater attention right now. Suicide rates have been steadily climbing in recent decades, and the reasons are complex, but no less complex than the challenges in preventing it.

Psychological research has uncovered a great deal about the risk factors for suicide, but there remains no guaranteed way to know who will attempt suicide or when it will occur. There are many reasons people decide to end their lives. Regardless of the reason, suicide is almost always a permanent solution to a temporary problem, so supporting a person through an acute crisis increases the odds of avoiding tragedy.

It is important to always take talk of suicide seriously and to resist the urge to brush it off as “a joke.” It’s never wrong to ask someone who is in a down state if they are having thoughts of wanting to die. It doesn’t make the issue worse by asking. It is common to think about dying, yet most people who do never go on to attempt suicide.

Steps to take if you encounter someone who may be contemplating suicide:

  • Take any talk of suicide seriously.
  • Take steps to help, including giving caring, emotional support, helping to solve stressful problems, or activating the person’s support network. (i.e., family, friends, colleagues, religious leaders, mental health professionals)
  • Try to come up with a plan to restrict the person’s means to commit suicide, including removing guns, medications, alcohol, toxic chemicals, even car keys, until the crisis has passed.
  • Call 911 if you suspect a person is likely to seriously harm themselves in the near future. Even if you’re wrong, it’s better to err on the side of caution than to regret not having done more.

Suicide is often a result of despair that nothing will ever get better, but time and hope can be the antidote. Please talk to a licensed mental health professional if you have concerns for yourself or someone else, and let’s work to create a society that shows hope is always possible.

- Anthony Ragusea, PsyD, MSCP, ABPP, a board-certified clinical psychologist, specializes in the treatment of emotional illnesses. For more information, contact Psychology of Evangelical at 570-524-6766.

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