Suicide: Why aren't we helping?

From a recent survey, we learned that 98% of U.S. adults think suicide
is preventable
. And while a majority (93%) would actively try to help if someone close to them was considering suicide, nearly half of those
who responded (45%) also admit that something might actually stop them from trying to help.

This is a huge problem.

What is preventing us from helping our loved ones get the support they so desperately need?

According to this survey, conducted on behalf of American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), the Anxiety and Depression Associations of America and the National Alliance for Suicide Prevention about a quarter of respondents (24%) would be afraid that they would make the person thinking about suicide feel worse, while another quarter (23%) wouldn’t know what to say or do.

This feels like a failure on our parts as a society: we have not equipped the general public with the information and knowledge they need to act as a safety-net for their loved ones in their time of need.

How can we educate people as to what they can (and should) say to someone contemplating suicide?

  1. Treat suicide as the ‘shared burden’ that it is. Engage loved ones if you’re worried about a family member. Suicide can impact all of us, and focusing on the idea that we are all in this together will not only help those who have been impacted by suicide to feel supported, but it will also help to break the stigma often associated with suicide and with asking for help.
  2. Do your research. If you know or suspect someone close to you is experiencing suicidal thoughts, equip yourself by learning how you can best provide support. Sites like those listed above, or are a good a starting point. Formal training courses are available across the country through Mental Health First Aid, as well.
  3. Encourage our society to talk openly about experiences around suicide, it can save a life.

We are all in this together.

If someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, try to help that person by LISTENING, offering support, and connecting him or her with the appropriate resources, including a primary care physician, mental health provider, trusted religious leader, or the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), which is toll-free and confidential. Lastly, engage others to help this person – do not take on the burden by yourself. With approximately 1 million people dying from suicide each year, it really is everyone’s problem.


Madeline Caldwell is the public relations manager at Sheppard Pratt Health System, and has six years of healthcare communication experience. She has several family members who have been affected by mental illness, and has had someone close to her die by suicide.