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Suicide Awareness / Safety

Death by suicide is the second leading cause of death among U.S. youth age 15-24 (2022, NAMI) and nearly 1 in 5 high school students reports serious thoughts of suicide.  We all play a role in identifying, responding to and preventing suicide.  The Resource Center has a variety of webinars, trainings and partner resources to assist your school and district with your suicide awareness and prevention planning.

Online, Self Paced Training: Suicide Safety for School Staff 

This training is designed to meet the basic awareness needs of any and all school staff.  Emphasis is on recognizing warning signs, understanding what it means to create a caring and competent school community, identifying the protocols in place at school to support a student with thoughts of suicide, and making a warm hand-off.

Suicide Prevention Center of New York 

The Suicide Prevention Center of New York offers comprehensive resources, materials and training opportunities.

Suicide Prevention for Youth

Families, caregivers, and schools play a vital role in suicide prevention for young people. It Is important to check in regularly and talk about mental health with loved ones so they are aware that the support is there if they start to struggle. 

Some groups may be at an increased risk for suicide including those exploring their sexual and gender identities, black youth, immigrants and youth of color as well as those experiencing bullying. 

Myth: Asking a person if they are suicidal will make things worse, or make them think about suicide.

Fact: Talking openly about mental health helps decrease the stigma and encourages others to reach out in times of need.

What does a youth at risk for suicide look like?

There are notable differences in the way some children express their sadness and suicidal thoughts. Some children may show their emotions outwardly (crying, yelling, acting out) while it may be more typical for some youth to internalize their concerns and fears rather than externalizing them (self doubt, shame, self hate). Signs/symptoms, changes in functioning

  • Threatening to hurt or kill themselves
  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide 
  • Hopeless, expresses no desire or reason to live, lack of purpose
  • Increased rage, anger or revenge seeking behaviors
  • Acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities
  • Dramatic changes in mood and functioning 

Remember: Engaging in Self Injurious Behaviors do not necessarily relate to suicidality

How do I respond?

Things to Do

  • Identify if there has been a recent suicide or traumatic death in their life
  • Talk to the youth about the changes you have noticed; tell them you are concerned and want to help
  • Listen when they share their struggles; together, determine what is needed support or solutions, or both
  • Express empathy for their situation and how they are feeling 
  • Determine an emergency plan with supportive people /contact information 
  • Ask them directly if they are having suicidal thoughts:

Are you having thoughts of suicide?
Are you thinking about killing yourself?

  • If yes, determine if there is a plan with follow up questions like:

When do you plan to do this?
Do you have a plan?
Have you consumed drugs or alcohol?
Do you have access to (weapons, medications, sharp objects, etc)? If so, remove dangerous items from their environment

Things to Avoid

  • Do not use guilt or threats to prevent suicide
  • Do not shame them for asking for help or expressing how they are feeling
  • Do not agree to keep suicidal ideas or intentions a secret
  • Do not leave an actively suicidal person alone

If you or someone you know is in a crisis, CALL 1-800- 273-8255 or TEXT “GOT5” to 741741 for immediate assistance. Learn more about using the lifeline by clicking here. 

For Additional Information

Family Education Webinars

When do I call for help?
  • A plan has been identified
  • If you believe your loved one is suicidal, seek professional support immediately 
  • If the person is a risk to their own safety or the safety of others – contact local mobile crisis supports, who can provide additional support and assistance to de escalate and stabilize a situation to help provide safety and therapeutic intervention during a crisis 
  • There is an immediate threat or concern for a persons safety

I called for help – What do emergency responders need to know?

When calling for support during a crisis, it is helpful for responders to have the following information:

  • If the person has access to a weapon, method of self harm
  • Is off any prescribed medications 
  • Has recently disengaged in mental health treatment 
  • Has written a note or has recently began giving away their possessions 
  • If there was a recent loss or trauma , or anniversary of an event
  • Is using or misusing drugs, alcohol or medications

To learn more, visit MHANYS Getting Help.