Suicide Prevention: Know the Warning Signs & Take Action

By Melissa Stewart, LMSW; JFS Teen Life Counts Program Coordinator


September is National Suicide Prevention Month. It is a month to remember those who have been affected by suicide and to share information about prevention.

Suicide is an epidemic in the United States. The most recent data from the CDC shows that in 2016, there were close to 45,000 deaths by suicide and over one million suicide attempts. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death nationally and is the 2nd leading cause of death among ages 10-34. Suicide also hits close to home in Louisiana. CDC data shows that suicide rates in Louisiana have increased by over 29 percent, since the year 1999,.

Suicide can affect everyone regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. Almost everyone has been touched by suicide in some way during their lives. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the problem, but there are ways to be proactive.

There are four major warning signs for suicide:

  1. Talking about or making a plan for suicide,
  2. Expressing hopelessness for the future,
  3. Displaying severe emotional pain or distress
  4. Worrisome changes in behavior.

If you observe these signs in a friend, family member, or colleague the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline recommends five action steps you can take:

  1. Ask. Directly ask if they are thinking about suicide. Use empathy and listen to what they say.
  2. Keep them away from lethal means. Keep them safe and away from anything they could use to harm themselves. If you suspect that the danger is imminent, call 911.
  3. Be there for the person. This can be done in many ways, but simple communication or even sitting with someone can provide comfort to a person who is contemplating suicide.
  4. Help them connect. Use the resources below to help this person connect with immediate support. Ongoing help and support from a mental health professional can help.
  5. Follow up. Similar to being there for someone in the moment, following up is just as important. It can be as easy as a text message or a phone call.

Keep in mind that asking someone if they’re suicidal does not “put the idea in their head.” Instead, it shows that you care. It may feel scary to broach the subject, but you could end up saving a life.

Immediate Crisis Resources:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.
  • VIA Link/Louisiana Crisis Line: 211
  • VIA Link Crisis Teen Text Line: 504-777-3273 aka 504-777-EASE

Other Resources:

  • Teen Life Counts (TLC) is a suicide prevention program for high schools and middle schools.
  • Jewish Family Service offers individual and family counseling services.

Please consider supporting TLC especially during suicide prevention month.

For more information on TLC, please contact Melissa Stewart , LMSW (phone:504-831-8475 ext. 124)
or call JFS intake 504-831-8475 to speak to a counselor today.

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