Get Involved to Prevent Suicide

Opportunities abound to learn more about suicide prevention and take action.

In a 2011 survey, an astounding 8.7% of Rhode Island high school students reported that they had attempted suicide.[1] Researchers identify many underlying reasons that lead some to want to end their lives: Intense emotional distress, depression, hopelessness, anger, impulsiveness, psychosis[2]. The list goes on. Remorse, and even feeling the need to be perfect, are identified. The issues are complex and multifaceted.

Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among American adults 18-65 and the second leading cause of death among teenagers. It is also the second leading cause of death in the US military - 38 members of the Army killed themselves in July 2012 – that is a record[3]. Our senior population is not immune to this crisis either. During the period of 2005-2009 the suicide rate for the over 55 population in Rhode Island was 10 of 100,000.[4]

How can we, as a community, help prevent someone’s desire to end their own life? To start, we must change the way we think of mental illness. A major factor contributing to the number of people who try to take their own life is stigma. Merriam-Webster defines stigma as “a mark of shame or discredit.” This negative feeling imposed by others that people with a psychiatric illness experience is real. Often driven by fear, people may shun or isolate those who they think are having emotional difficulties. This is the exact opposite of what is needed.

Suicide prevention efforts entail increasing social support networks and securing early psychiatric treatment.[5] According to a preliminary report that looked at the views of those who attempted suicide, stigma had a negative influence.[6] When society stigmatizes those who have a mental illness, then people struggling are less likely to seek professional help or support from their family and friends.

Here are some opportunities to get involved, and to get help.

Rhode Island hosted five walkathons to prevent suicide in September and October. These walks, sponsored by Out of the Darkness Community Walks, are raising money for the benefit of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). AFSP funds educational programs supporting prevention, warning-sign awareness, and education about psychiatric illnesses that can lead to suicide. They also fund research to help understand suicide and how to prevent it. Click here to make a donation to each of the walks and support AFSP’s mission. 

The Samaritans of Rhode Island Suicide Prevention Resource Center provides volunteer-run programs to help those at risk of suicide. According to its website The Samaritans of RI engages volunteers to listen to what a person in crisis is feeling and thinking without expressing personal judgment – a practice they call “befriending.” Befriending is a step toward reducing the stigma of suicide and psychiatric illness. Volunteer information and training schedules

The National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) Rhode Island chapter has several affiliates throughout the state. NAMI RI’s mission is a grassroots organization that supports those with mental illness and their family members. The organization also provides education and training to professionals, consumers, family members and others in the community, and advocates on behalf of their constituents.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline has trained counselors available 24/7 at local crisis centers, ready to speak with anyone experiencing any sort of problems. They want to help callers find a reason to keep living. 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

[1] State of Rhode Island Department of Health, downloaded 10/22/2012, 


[2] Boergers, J., Spirito, A., and Donaldson, D. 1998. Reasons for Adolescent Suicide Attempts: Associations With Psychological Functioning. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 37;12: 1287–1293

[3] US Department of Defense, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, http://www.defense.gov/Releases/Release.aspx?ReleaseID=15517, August 16, 2012.

[4] State of Rhode Island Department of Health, downloaded 10/22/2012, http://www.health.ri.gov/data/suicideandselfharminjury/index.php.

[5] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012 Understanding Suicide Fact Sheet. http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/Suicide_FactSheet_2012-a.pdf.

[6] Eagles, J. M., Carson, D. P., Begg, A., et al, 2003. Suicide prevention: a study of patients' views. British Journal of Psychiatry, 182, 261–265.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Loretta Jay October 26, 2012 at 02:18 AM
Thank you Jackie for your feedback and for sharing. The more we open up and talk with each other about mental illness and suicide, the better we can support those who are suffering.
Gretchen Robinson November 04, 2012 at 02:32 AM
Thank you Jackie for the work you are doing. As a society we need to educate ourselves and reach out more to people who may be struggling. A simple "how are you doing?" and then taking the time to really listen and look the person in the eye can make a difference. "Are you okay?" "Is there anything you want to talk about." These all leave the door open. I think for many there is a loss of meaning and a loss of or lack of purpose. The emotional pain one can feel can trigger an impulsive act. I like that you mention shame which needs to be studied more. But "we're a little ashamed to talk about shame" as someone said. Have you read "The Culture of Shame" by Andrew Morrison, MD? Shame is everywhere in our culture, from the presidential candidates trying to shame and humiliate their opponent/his positions, to bullies humiliating and shaming his/her victims.
Sharpie November 05, 2012 at 01:51 PM
No judgment metered out to those who have attempted suicide. Harsh judgment by others alone drives suicidal thoughts. How we treat people matters. They call it psychic homicide when our treatment of others creates so much psychological suffering that they want to end their own lives. We play a part in suicide if we are not showing respect at all times to the people around us.
Gretchen Robinson November 06, 2012 at 03:45 AM
I SO agree, Shapie. We need to "honor the dignity and worth" of every person we meet in life. We need to do, as the Native American saying goes, "to walk a mile in their moccasins." No one knows another person's pain and suffering, what hurt and 'soul murder' has been done to them. No one knows how their brain chemistry might be disordered. But we can be there and reach out, be sensitive, get them help, call police if they are a danger to themselves or others, and act on their behalf while they are not thinking clearly. The life you save may be someone else's-- just by the quality of your listening, and your willingness to do so.
Loretta Jay November 06, 2012 at 01:40 PM
As we continue this conversation, here and at the dinner table, with our friends and neighbors, PTAs and legislators we are raising awareness, and therefore helping others understand mental illness. It is a disease of the brain and need not be feared. When our communities come together and support those who are hurting we are all better off. And yes, when we as individuals take that extra bit of time to reach out, maybe we can help safe a life.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »