Heartland Human Services

Suicide Prevention

By Kayla Schumacher, BS, MHP, Psychotherapist

Friends, families, and communities each year are affected by suicide and/or suicide attempts. “In 2010 (the most recent year for which data are available), 38,364 suicides were reported, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death for Americans” (“Data Sources,” n.d.) and with more than hundreds of thousands of attempts made each year as well.
Such drastic actions are confusing, hurtful, and terrifying to all of those involved. A common question is, “What can I do?” Whether you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or someone trying to be supportive, there are steps that can be taken. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) recommends the following steps can be taken if someone begins talking about suicide:

  • Take it seriously
  • Ask questions
  • Encourage professional help
  • Take action
  • Follow-up on treatment

If someone you know or love is talking about suicide, do not brush it off. Each threat should be taken seriously. “50% to 75% of all people who attempt suicide tell someone about their intention,” (“Risk Factors and Warning Signs,” n.d.). Asking questions in response to their threats can provide insight into whether they have a plan and intend to follow through with the threat. Gain as much information as you can (e.g., details of the plan, protective resources, whether they are on medications, have a counselor, etc.) and do not be afraid to ask direct questions.
Know you do not have to handle a potential suicide crisis on your own. If you worry someone will follow through with their threat, stay with them, but encourage them to seek help from a medical or mental health provider. Be active and help connect them to available resources (e.g., ER, walk-in crisis services at a local mental health agency, crisis phone lines, the police, etc.). Remember that professionals are available, capable, and willing to assist you.
Last, but not least, follow-up after the initial threat is over. Continue to let the person know you are there. Ask questions about the follow-up care they are receiving and whether they are following prescribed regimens (e.g., medications, counseling, etc.). Knowing someone cares and is willing to continue be supportive is a major factor in further preventing suicide attempts.
Heartland Human Services is dedicated to the prevention of suicide, with a variety of services available. Through outpatient mental health and substance counseling, as well as case management services, Heartland Humans Services provides individuals with resources to help cope with distress. Heartland also has a variety of crisis intervention services which are available 24/7. The Heartland Crisis Team provides the following support via phone to verbally walk you through a crisis, as well as on-site assessment for acute crisis situations at St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital and the Effingham County Jail. Individuals and families will be linked and referred to appropriate resources to be able to work through their crisis situation. If you or a loved one is having suicidal thoughts or experiencing a crisis, contact the Heartland Human Services Crisis Line at (217) 342-5504.
For more information about what you can do to prevent suicide, go to www.afsp.org and learn what you can do on an individual and community level.

Data Sources. (2013, December 31). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved May
15, 2014, from http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/suicide/datasources.html
Our Services. (n.d.). Heartland Human Services. Retrieved May 15, 2014, from
Risk Factors and Warning Signs. (n.d.). American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Retrieved
May 15, 2014, from http://www.afsp.org/preventing-suicide/risk-factors-and-warning-signs

Psychologists advise those who have feelings of depression lasting more than two weeks to seek professional advice.  If you or a loved one are experiencing  any symptoms of depression, contact Heartland Human Services at 217-347-7179 or take a free screening at www.heartlandhs.org