September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

In acknowledgment of Suicide Prevention Month, the Psychological Sciences Department at CWRU invites you to take a moment to learn about this important mental health crisis

Suicide is a growing public health concern, impacting individuals all over the world.

  • In the United States in 2018, there was an estimated 1.4 million suicide attempts, 48,344 deaths from suicide, with an average of 132 deaths occuring from suicide each day (CDC, 2018). An average of 1 person dies by suicide every 10.9 minutes (American Association of Suicidology, 2018).
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Americans age 15 to 24 years
  • 7 in 100,000 young adults ages 20-24 die by suicide each year, a significant increase since the year 2000 (CDC, 2018).
  • For every suicide death, 135 people are affected by the loss and are at greater risk for suicide (Cerel, 2019).

The good news is that we know we can help. Suicide is preventable; you have the power to make a difference – the power to save a life.

Resources for Individuals in Crisis

Saving 1 or 2 of these resources on your phone can help you and others at any moment.

Local crisis and emergency resources:

  • Cuyahoga County Mobile Crisis Hotline: 216-623-6888

National crisis and emergency resources:

  • 911; Request a welfare check by first responders
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273- 8255 (TALK)
  • Crisis Text Line: text HOME to 741-741
  • Poison Control: 1-800-222-1222 or use the webPOISONCONTROL® tool
  • Veteran Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255
  • National Hopeline Network: 1-800-442-4673 (SUICIDE)
  • Trevor Project (LGBTQ+): 866-488-7386
  • Trans Lifeline: 877-565-8860

CWRU’s Reach Out App:

  • The app provides quick access to support and resources, such as crisis hotlines, guidance for helping a friend in need, coping skills, and services offered on campus and in the community.
  • The app is available to faculty, staff, and students at CWRU
  • The app can be downloaded through Google Play and the Apple App Store by searching “Reach Out CWRU.”

**If you or someone you know is in danger of harming themselves, call 911 or take them to the emergency department. Don’t leave the person alone until help has arrived (but don’t put yourself in danger)**

Resources for Individuals Impacted by Suicide

  • American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: http://www.afsp.org
    • The Suicide Survivors Outreach Program has trained volunteers who conduct in person visits to newly bereaved family
    • You can search for support groups and other local resources by zip code
  • Suicide Awareness Voices of Education: https://save.org/
    • Resources and educational materials for coping with a loss including information on grief, finding comfort, what to say to children, support groups, and Annual Suicide Awareness Memorial Event
    • Peer Support for Suicide Attempt Survivors and Those with Suicidal Thoughts
  • American Association of Suicidology: http://www.suicidology.org/suicide-survivor-resources
    • Resources and educational materials for bereaved family and friends including locating a support groups and how to facilitate your own survivor support group
    • Annual Healing After Suicide Loss Conference (previous conferences recorded online)
  • Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS): https://www.taps.org/
    • Resources and educational materials for families grieving the death of a military loved one
    • Programs for family members including: seminars, youth programs, expeditions, retreats, peer mentoring, and other resources

How to Join the Fight Against Suicide (Suicideispreventable.org)
Know the signs: Emotional pain isn’t always obvious, but most people show some signs if they are thinking about suicide. The signs may appear in conversations, through their actions, or in social media posts. If you observe one or more of these warning signs, especially if the behavior is new, has increased, or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change, step in or speak up.

  1. Speech: Talking about killing themselves, preoccupation with death, hopelessness, having no reason to live or having no purpose, feeling like a burden, feeling trapped, unbearable emotional pain
  2. Actions: Increased use of substances and/or risky behaviors, looking for ways to end their life, withdrawing from activities and people, sleeping too much or too little, fatigue, saying goodbye, giving away possessions
  3. Mood: Depression, loss of interest, humiliation/shame, agitation/anger, self-loathing, anxiety, irritability, relief/sudden improvement

Find the words: “Are you thinking of ending your life?” Few phrases are as difficult to say to a loved one. But when it comes to suicide prevention, none are more important. Here are some ways to get the conversation started.

  1. Start the conversation: “I’ve noticed that you’ve mentioned feeling hopeless a lot lately. Sometimes when people feel like that, they are thinking about suicide. Are you thinking about suicide?” or “are you thinking of ending your life?”
  2. Listen, care, reassure: “I can imagine how tough this must be for you. I understand when you say that you aren’t sure if you want to live or die. But have you always wanted to die? Well, maybe there’s a chance you won’t feel this way forever. I can help” or “I’m deeply concerned about you and I want you to know that help is available to get you through this.”
  3. Create a Safety Plan: Identify ways that will help keep the person safe until they meet with a professional. Ask the person if they have access to any lethal means (weapons, medications, etc.) and help remove them from the vicinity (another friend, family member or law enforcement agent may be needed to assist with this). Do not put yourself in danger; if you are concerned about your own safety, call 911.
    1. “Do you have any weapons or prescription medications in the house?”
    2. “Is there someone you can call if you think you may act on your thoughts of suicide?”
  4. Get help: “I understand if it feels awkward to go see a counselor. But there is a phone number we can call to talk to somebody. Maybe they can help?”

Reach out with additional resources/check in on how they’re doing

Spread the word about suicide prevention!
Current CWRU Graduate Student Work on Suicide Prevention

  • Jim Overholser’s research lab focuses on assessing relationships between depression and suicide risk. Currently, he is conducting ongoing research in adult psychiatric outpatients and individuals who have died by suicide. Broadly, he hopes to improve understanding of the cognitive and emotional factors that underlie severe depression and suicidal tendencies, as well as the positive and negative attitudes that underlie, and potentially cause, significant emotional reactions.
    • Silvia Hernandez, M.A.’s dissertation looks at how the intersection between a person and their social environment impacts their suicidal thinking. By applying Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development to suicidal ideation, Silvia hopes to better understand how adult development shapes the ways in which people think about suicide, with the aim of directly translating findings into treatment goals for those who experience suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
    • Eleanor Beale, M.A., is beginning work on her dissertation thesis looking at the state of ambivalence between wanting to live and wanting to die experienced by suicidal individuals. Through qualitative interviews, Eleanor hopes to better understand what the internal struggle between the simultaneous desire to live and die is like for those who live with suicidal thoughts and behaviors. By gaining first-hand experiences, Eleanor hopes to develop methods of intervention to target this state of ambivalence as well as an improved measure of ambivalence.
    • Stephanie Gomez, B.S., is currently working on her master’s thesis looking at the role of premeditation in people who have died by suicide. Using psychological autopsy data, Stephanie will develop a new measure of premeditation based on objective indicators present in the medical and psychiatric charts of these individuals. She will investigate whether there are psychological factors that impact the extent to which a person plans their suicide ahead of time. Stephanie hopes this information will inform the development of more nuanced risk assessments and interventions for suicidal individuals.
  • Arin Connell received an NIMH R01 award to conduct integrative data analyses examining long-term crossover effects of the Family Check-Up, an empirically supported prevention program designed to reduce behavior problems and substance use, on depression and suicidal ideation and attempts.
    • In-line with this work, Kelsey Magee, M.A.’s dissertation research involves integrative data analyses to facilitate the examination of peer and self-regulatory risk processes related to age of onset, frequency, and co-occurrence of depression and conduct problems in relation to suicide-risk. Kelsey hopes that the results of this work will facilitate greater tailoring of prevention and intervention programs to subpopulations of youth with distinct patterns of emotional and behavioral problems.
  • Norah Feeny’s research lab focuses on optimizing treatments for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and related psychopathology. Many people with PTSD also experience comorbid depression including suicidal ideation. Her lab currently has a research project examining changes in suicidal ideation over the course of psychotherapy and a combined treatment of psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy for PTSD to better understand how these treatments might be able to help patients with suicidal ideation.