211 Helping To Save Lives and Raise Awareness about Suicide Prevention

September 2014-Suicide is recognized as a serious public-health problem that is of national and global concern and the month of September spotlights suicide awareness and prevention efforts. September 8th marked the start of the 39th annual National Suicide Prevention Week with September 10th spotlighting World Suicide Prevention Day. This campaign was spearheaded by the American Association of Suicidology (AAS), and is a collaborative effort by many agencies nationwide to help increase awareness about suicide prevention.

For the staff at 211 HelpLine suicide prevention is an everyday occurrence with an average of 6 suicidal individuals or those concerned family or friends calling daily.

The month of August 2014 became a center of focus with the tragic loss of Robin Williams. In the days following his death, the staff at 211 experienced a 61% increase in suicide calls concerning individuals themselves and those concerned about others. Mental health calls also increased with several people calling to identify with Robin Williams’ struggle with depression. Many callers simply wanted to talk about what they were feeling and wanted to wish condolences to the Williams family. Robin Williams’ death seemed to be a catalyst for people in the community to reach out for help. The August statistics at 211 were a unique occurrence… with an overall statistical comparison between January through August 2013 & 2014 a 4.5% increase of suicide calls was noted.

“Robin Williams’ death impacted so many people…it seems that a greater dialogue is now taking place regarding suicide awareness and prevention.” said Susan Buza, Executive Director for 211.  In the meantime 211 staff work tirelessly to ensure that a warm comforting voice is at the other end of the line, ready to listen, ready to help. 

“Individuals who contemplate suicide do not see how their decision will impact others – they will leave on average 7 people as survivors, struggling in the aftermath,” says Schroeder. “As the stigma of reaching out for mental health help decreases through awareness efforts, we will begin to make real strides in prevention efforts.”

The American Association of Suicidology (AAS) reports that:

  • For the U.S. population as a whole, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death.
  • On average, one suicide occurs every 13.3 minutes in the United States.
  • Nationally we lose approximately 108.3 individuals to suicide a day.
  • Approximately 987,950 Americans attempt suicide annually. 

If you are concerned about yourself or someone you know, dial 2-1-1.

Common Warning Signs and ways to help someone who might be contemplating suicide:

  • Talking about suicide – for example, making statements such as “I'm going to kill myself,” “I wish I were dead,” or “I wish I hadn't been born.”
  • Obtaining the means to commit suicide, such as buying a gun or stockpiling pills.
  • Withdrawing from social contact and wanting to be left alone.
  • Exhibiting mood swings, such as being exuberant one day and depressed the next.
  • Being preoccupied with death, dying or violence.
  • Expressing feelings of being trapped or hopeless.
  • Increasing use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Changing normal routines, including eating or sleeping patterns.
  • Engaging in risky or self-destructive behavior, such as using drugs or driving recklessly.
  • Giving away belongings or taking steps to get one’s affairs in order.
  • Saying goodbye to people in a manner that suggests they won’t be seen again.
  • Displaying personality changes or extreme anxiety, particularly when exhibiting some of the warning signs listed above.


What you can do:

If you suspect that a friend or loved one is contemplating suicide, the following actions are recommended:

  • Encourage the person to seek treatment. Ideally, the individual should consult a doctor or mental-health provider. But, if he or she is unwilling to do so, suggest reaching out to a support group, crisis center or faith community. Locally dial 2-1-1 or reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
  • Help the person get assistance. For example, you can research treatment options, make phone calls, review health insurance benefit information or take the person to an appointment.
  • Facilitate open communication. Be supportive and understanding. Also, listen attentively and avoid interrupting.
  • Be respectful of the person’s feelings. Even though someone who’s suicidal isn’t thinking logically, the emotions are real. Not acknowledging how the person feels can curtail communication.
  • Don’t be patronizing or judgmental. Instead of contending that “things could be worse” or “you have so much to live for,” ask questions such as, “What would make you feel better?” or “How can I help?”
  • Never promise to keep someone’s suicidal feelings a secret. The reason is simple. If you think that the person’s life is in danger, you’ll have to get help.
  • Offer reassurance. Emphasize that, with appropriate treatment, he or she will feel better about life.
  • Encourage the person to avoid alcohol and drugs. Using drugs or alcohol can lead to reckless behavior and increase depression.


Take Action

If you think that someone is in danger of committing suicide or has actually made a suicide attempt:

  • Trust your instincts even though you may worry that you’re overreacting-when someone’s life is potentially at stake, that’s a risk worth taking.
  • Don’t leave the person alone.
  • Try to find out if he or she is under the influence of alcohol or drugs or may have taken an overdose.
  • Call 911.
  • If these options above aren’t possible, dial 2-1-1 locally or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

For more information about National Suicide Prevention Week, visit


More Information:

Experts believe that most suicidal individuals do not want to die. They just want to end the pain they are experiencing.

Experts also know that suicidal crises tend to be brief. When suicidal behaviors are detected early, lives can be saved. There are services available in our community for the assessment and treatment of suicidal behaviors and their underlying causes.

Please join 211 Palm Beach/Treasure Coast in supporting suicide prevention. Learn about the warning signs. Help a suicidal person seek help. Together, we can reduce the number of suicides in our community.

Call 211 Palm Beach/Treasure Coast 24-hours a day for free, crisis counseling and suicide prevention assistance.


Reference: American Association of Suicidology, Public Service Announcement.