Suicide Prevention

We can all help prevent suicide.
Know the Signs of Suicide and How to Handle Them

If you or anyone you know is contemplating suicide, please seek immediate help by calling 1.844.493.8255 or texting TALK to 38255.

Suicide isn’t always somebody else’s problem. You may know an individual who has attempted to kill him or herself – and has perhaps succeeded – or you may have struggled with suicidal thoughts yourself.

  • The Rocky Mountain region has the highest suicide rate in the country
  • Suicide rates on the Western Slope can be up to 3x of Colorado’s rate
  • The largest number of suicide deaths occur among middle-aged men 35 – 44.
  • As many as 9,600 Coloradans are estimated to be seriously contemplate suicide each year, with approximately one-half to two-thirds of these individuals not being treated for their suicidal symptoms.

RESOURCES

EMERGENCY
911

Colorado Crisis Services Hotline
1.844.493.TALK (8255)
Text ‘TALK’ to 38255

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1.800.273.TALK (8255)
(Veterans, press 1)

SuicidePreventionLifeline.org
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Warning Signs of Suicide

It’s extremely important to be aware of the warning signs of suicide, as well as what to do if you’re confronted with someone who displays these signs.

Those with mental illness and/or alcohol abuse have a higher risk of suicide. Many feel that suicide offers the only “hope” they have of ending the pain and hopelessness they experience on daily basis. Warning signs of suicide include:

  • Talking about suicide and/or a preoccupation with the idea of death
  • Talking about feeling empty, hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about great guilt or shame
  • Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Feeling unbearable pain (emotional or physical)
  • Making a plan or looking for a way to kill themselves, such as seeking access to guns, knives, pills or other means of ending life
  • Using alcohol or drugs more often
  • Acting anxious or agitated, showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Saying goodbyes to loved ones, giving away important possessions, putting affairs in order
  • Recklessness and self-destructive behaviors
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • A sudden sense of calm, apparent happiness, or relief of depressive symptoms that can follow a decision to complete suicide

If these warning signs apply to you or someone you know, get help as soon as possible, particularly if the behavior is new or has increased recently.

Risk Factors For Suicide

Suicide does not discriminate. People of all genders, ages, and ethnicities can be at risk. Suicidal behavior is complex, and there is no single cause. Many different factors contribute to someone making a suicide attempt. But people most at risk tend to share specific characteristics. The main risk factors for suicide are:

  • Depression, other mental disorders, or substance abuse disorder
  • Certain medical conditions
  • Chronic pain
  • A prior suicide attempt
  • Family history of a mental disorder or substance abuse
  • Family history of suicide
  • Family violence, including physical or sexual abuse
  • Having guns or other firearms in the home
  • Having recently been released from prison or jail
  • Being exposed to others’ suicidal behavior, such as that of family members, peers, or celebrities

Many people have some of these risk factors but do not attempt suicide. It is important to note that suicide is not a normal response to stress. Suicidal thoughts or actions are a sign of extreme distress, not a harmless bid for attention, and should not be ignored.

If you know someone who is exhibiting some combination of these traits, speak up!

Often family and friends are the first to recognize the warning signs.  Don’t be afraid to address the issue of suicide with the person in a manner that is supportive and non-judgmental. Evidence shows that raising the issue of suicide does not encourage suicide, but rather assists in stopping it. Offer your help, especially if you think an attempt is imminent. Be prepared to act quickly by contacting an emergency crisis-counseling center, removing deadly weapons or other means of self-harm and staying with the individual until you can be certain that he or she is safe.

TREATMENTS AND THERAPIES

Suicide is complex. Treatments and therapies for people with suicidal thoughts or actions will vary with age, gender, physical and mental well-being, and with individual experiences.

Psychotherapies

Multiple types of psychosocial interventions have been found to help individuals who have attempted suicide. These types of interventions may prevent someone from making another attempt.

Medication

Some individuals at risk for suicide might benefit from medication. Doctors and patients can work together to find the best medication or medication combination, as well as the right dose. Because many individuals at risk for suicide often have a mental illness and substance use problems, individuals might benefit from medication along with psychosocial intervention.

Clozapine is an antipsychotic medication used primarily to treat individuals with schizophrenia. To date, it is the only medication with a specific U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) indication for reducing the risk of recurrent suicidal behavior in patients with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.

If you are prescribed a medication, be sure you:

  • Talk with your doctor or a pharmacist to make sure you understand the risks and benefits of the medications you’re taking.
  • Do not stop taking a medication without talking to your doctor first. Suddenly stopping a medication may lead to “rebound” or worsening of symptoms. Other uncomfortable or potentially dangerous withdrawal effects also are possible.
  • Report any concerns about side effects to your doctor right away. You may need a change in the dose or a different medication.
  • Report serious side effects to the FDA MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online or by phone at 1-800-332-1088. You or your doctor may send a report.

Other medications have been used to treat suicidal thoughts and behaviors, but more research is needed to show the benefit of these options. For basic information about these medications, you can visit the NIMH Mental Health Medications webpage. For the most up-to-date information on medications, side effects, and warnings, visit the FDA website.

How to Talk to Children about a Suicide Attempt in your Family

Courtesy US Dept of Veterans Affairs & Rocky Mountain MIRECC for Suicide Prevention

This information is intended to inform and guide adults when talking with children about a suicide attempt in the family.  It is not intended to replace the advice of a mental health professional and it may be best to use this along with professional support if you or your child is struggling with how to talk about this difficult topic.  It is important to consider your child’s level of development and ability to understand events when deciding how to talk with them.  Sticking to simple facts, key issues and answering any questions they may have may be all they need.

If you notice that your child is unusually withdrawn, tearful or depressed, seek professional help
or call the Colorado Crisis Hotline at 1.844.493.8255 or Text ‘TALK’ to 38255.

How to Talk to a Pre-school Age Child

Without support of family or other caring adults, a young child may try to make sense of this confusing situation on their own.  Children this age have magical thinking and their own ideas about what is happening can be more frightening that the situation itself.  Because preschool children do not have the vocabulary to express all their thoughts and feelings, they may act out at times.  Small children, when stressed, may exhibit changes in behavior, such as temper tantrums.  They may also have trouble sleeping and may become clingy because they are feeling insecure, anxious or fearful.  Younger children are self-interested by nature and so they may blame themselves and feel guilty because they think they have caused the problem.  Children this age will need lots of reassurance and a sense that problems can be solved.  It is important to instill a sense of hope that their parent/relative, while struggling, can get help and get well.

To consider if you should speak with your preschooler

    • If your child was exposed to the crisis and traumatized, they will need some basic understanding of what happened
    • If your child was elsewhere and not exposed, consider what they need to know to make sense of the changes happening in their life.
    • The goal is not to overwhelm the child with information, but to answer questions in a calm, non-judgmental way so they are not afraid to ask more questions.

Suggestions for Talking with Your Child

    • Choose a private and comfortable place where your child will feel free to talk.  Also be aware of what they may overhear from other conversations.
    • Understand that young children may only be able to deal with a little bit of information at a time, and may ask more questions over time.
    • Keep it simple and use words that your child will understand.  Be honest and direct but do not provide more details than the child needs.  Let responses and questions guide you when deciding how much information to provide.
    • Be aware of your own feelings and how you are coming across.  For example, your child could mistake an angry tone of voice to mean that you are angry with them.  A calm, gentle tone will help them feel safe to open up to you.
    • Ask your child age-appropriate questions and allow them to freely express even difficult or uncomfortable emotions without judgement.
    • Smaller children may express their feelings or fears through make-believe play.  If your child can’t express questions directly, consider spending playtime together expressing feelings in other ways through art, music, other forms of expression etc.
    • Reading books or stories may make it easier for small children to express themselves indirectly by identifying with the characters, “how do you think the bunny rabbit felt when he got lost in the woods?”

Ways to Support Your Young Child

    • By continuing certain dependable, daily routines even in a difficult time you can help your child feel cared for and safe. Calming bedtime rituals, such as a bath or reading time, will be even more important to your child now.  Show your child that their day-to-day life will remain stable and that basic needs will continue to be met.
    • While providing stability, also remain flexible to a child’s emotional needs during a disruptive time.
    • Get other support people involved (family, friends, clergy). This will benefit both you and your child.
    • Very young children receive special comfort from physical as well as verbal expressions of affection. Offer extra support and attention during this time.
    • As the parent/relative who has been hospitalized becomes more stable, consider if it would be helpful to offer your child a chance to visit them in the hospital.
    • Preschool children are very sensitive to the emotional state of their caregivers.  Caregivers should try to care for their own emotions, including grieving privately when possible, and concentrate on the child’s needs when together.

How to Talk to a School-age Child

It is important to talk to your child about the suicide attempt to help them understand what has happened.   Without support of family/friends, children may try to make sense of this confusing situation themselves.  Sometimes children blame themselves for something they may or may not have done.  When stressed, a child may exhibit changes in behavior, such as acting out, trouble sleeping or becoming more attached due to insecure, anxious or tearful feelings.  It is important to instill a sense of hope that their parent/relative can get help and get well.

To consider if you should speak with your school-age child

    • If your child was exposed to the crisis and traumatized, they will need some basic understanding of what happened
    • If your child was elsewhere and not exposed, consider what they need to know to make sense of the changes happening in their life.
    • The goal is not to overwhelm the child with information, but to answer questions in a calm, non-judgmental way so they are not afraid to ask more questions.
    • If marriage or family problems contributed to a suicide attempt, avoid details that would put your child in the middle between parents or other family members.

Suggestions for Talking with Your Child

    • Choose a private and comfortable place where your child will feel free to talk.  Also be aware of what they may overhear from other conversations.
    • Keep it simple and use words that your child will understand.  Be honest and direct but do not provide unnecessary details. Invite them to ask questions.
    • Be aware of your own feelings and how you are coming across.  For example, your child could mistake an angry tone of voice to mean that you are angry with them.  A calm, gentle tone will help them feel safe to open up to you.
    • Ask your child age-appropriate questions and allow them to freely express even difficult or uncomfortable emotions without judgement.

Ways to Support Your School-Age Child

    • By continuing certain dependable, daily routines even in a difficult time you can help your child feel cared for and safe. Show your child that their day-to-day life will remain stable and that basic needs will continue to be met.
    • Get other support people involved (family, friends, clergy). This will benefit both you and your child. School-aged children can also begin to learn caring for themselves during stressful times by paying special attention to good sleep, eating and physical habits.
    • School-aged children also receive special comfort from physical as well as verbal expressions of affection. Offer extra support and attention during this time.
    • Children, particularly as they approach teen years, will benefit from knowing they play a valuable role in the family and can contribute by helping with chores, participating in family volunteer activities or helping plan a family member’s return from the hospital.
    • As the parent/relative who has been hospitalized becomes more stable, visiting them in the hospital and attending a family therapy session with a mental health professional can be quite helpful and reassuring.
    • Consider coordinating with your child’s school by notifying a counselor or a trusted teacher about the situation so that they may support your child and be alert for any signs of prolonged or excessive distress or behavioral concerns.
    • Older school-age children may benefit from discussing boundaries about disclosing information with friends, classmates and on social media outlets.

How to Talk to a Teen

It is important to talk to your teen about the suicide attempt to help them understand what has happened.   Without support of family/friends, they may try to make sense of this confusing situation themselves.  Sometimes teens blame themselves for something they may or may not have done.  Teens may not want to talk directly about their worries or feelings.  Instead, they may show them in other ways.  They may isolate, or not talk to their friends out of shame, uneasiness or fear of being misunderstood or rejected.  It’s helpful to share a hopeful outlook and when appropriate involve your teen in activities that may help make a positive difference.To consider if you should speak with your teen

    • If your teen was exposed to the crisis and traumatized, they will need some basic understanding of what happened
    • Even if they were not exposed to the suicide attempt, you should share the basic facts with them, including any obvious injuries, and let their questions guide you from there. The goal is to answer in a calm, non-judgmental way so they won’t be afraid to ask more questions.
    • Help them make sense of what happened in the context of mental illness and/or substance abuse, and include the support of a mental health professional in the conversation if you are not familiar with mental illness.
    • If marriage or family problems contributed to a suicide attempt, avoid details that would put the teen in the middle between parents or other family members.
    • If your family member is in the hospital, talk to your teen as soon as possible.

Suggestions for Talking with Your Teen

    • Choose a private place where your teen will feel free to express themselves.  Try to provide multiple opportunities to talk, even when a teen seems unresponsive or reluctant.
    • Provide a safe space for your teen to express even uncomfortable feelings, including anger.  Ask them questions that will help them open up to you.
    •  Be aware of your own feelings and how you are coming across.  Your teen may be more likely to listen if you appear calm and approachable.
    • Keep checking in with your teen.  This will send the message that you are open to answering questions over time.  Be honest.
    • Offer extra support, affection and attention during this time (family meals, time together).
    • Be prepared to discuss concerns about whether your teen is at risk for similar behaviors.

Ways to Support Your Teen

    • For the younger teens, help them keep healthy structure in their daily routines, such as home, dinner & bedtime routines.
    • For older teens who are more independent and more likely to structure the majority of their own time, you can talk to and encourage them in practicing self-care.
    • While providing stability, also remain flexible to a teen’s needs during a disruptive time.
    • Get other support people involved (family, friends, clergy). This will benefit both you and your teen.
    • Although it’s normal for many teens to avoid parent’s affection, don’t be surprised if they need more physical comfort during a stressful time.
    • Teens can regress when stressed and may act like they did during younger stages of development.
    • As the parent/relative who has been hospitalized becomes more stable, visiting them in the hospital and attending a family therapy session with a mental health professional can be quite helpful and reassuring.
    • Show appreciation for your teen taking on additional tasks while you attend to the relative’s needs.
    • Teens may benefit from discussing boundaries about disclosing information with friends, classmates and on social media outlets.