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Mental Health & Wellness Articles

Suicide Risk Reduction Through Connections

Tuesday, September 26, 2023
Story on suicide risk reduction through recognizing warning signs and engaging. Photo of a young Kyle Ferris, who shared his story of surviving a suicide attempt with NewBridge.

Suicide survivor Kyle Ferris shared his story during Suicide Prevention Month.

Deaths by suicide in the U.S. again increased in 2022, reaching 49,449 lives, the highest total to date, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy called the statistics released last month “a sobering reminder of how urgent it is that we further expand access to mental health care, address the root causes of mental health struggles, and recognize the importance of checking on and supporting one another.”

The goal of suicide risk reduction needs a systemic solution. Still, individuals can save lives by recognizing warning signs and intervening. “If you see someone in distress, take a minute to speak with them, ask them how they are and if they need help,” said Beth Jacobson, director of Community Outreach and Education at NewBridge Services. Suicide Warning Signs include:

  • Hopelessness
  • Uncontrolled anger and/or agitation
  • Reckless behavior
  • Increased use of drugs or alcohol
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Dramatic mood changes

Most victims of suicide had a diagnosable mental illness at the time of their death. Risk factors include trauma, loneliness, unemployment, grief, and financial struggles. For every suicide, another 25 people attempt suicide, and even more have serious thoughts of suicide.

“Encourage friends and family to add crisis resources to their smartphones for 24/7 emotional support,” Jacobson said. Having a suicide safety plan, a toolkit of strategies for diffusing an emotional crisis, can truly be a lifeline, Jacobson said.

Five Steps
The National Institute of Mental Health recommended five steps people can take to help another suffering emotional pain:
  1. ASK: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It’s not an easy question but studies show that asking at-risk individuals if they are suicidal does not increase suicides or suicidal thoughts.
  2. KEEP THEM SAFE: Reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal items or places is an important part of suicide prevention. While this is not always easy, asking if the at-risk person has a plan and removing or disabling the lethal means can make a difference.
  3. BE THERE: Listen carefully and learn what the individual is thinking and feeling. Research suggests acknowledging and talking about suicide may in fact reduce rather than increase suicidal thoughts.
  4. HELP THEM CONNECT: Share the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, which provides emotional support 24/7 by dialing or texting 988. You can also get them in touch with a trusted family member, spiritual advisor or mental health professional.
  5. STAY CONNECTED: Follow up with the individual afterward because that can reduce the risk of a subsequent crisis.

Suicide survivor Kyle Ferris shared his heart-wrenching story with NewBridge during Suicide Prevention Month. Read the story and hear Ferris in his own words talk about what led to the attempt and his road to recovery here. Ferris volunteers on NewBridge Services’ Zero Suicide committee. All employees at NewBridge learn about suicide risk reduction, learning suicide risk factors and warning signs, and how to get a person help.

The Pew Charitable Trusts created this video on the assessment of suicide risk:


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