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City of Alexandria, VA City of Alexandria, VA
Health Department
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Page updated Aug 26, 2014 3:18 PM
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The Health Department phone system is being updated. Please use 703.746.4996 to contact us by phone.

El sistema telefónico del Departamento de Salud está siendo actualizado. Por favor use el 703.746.4996 para contactarnos por teléfono.

How you can play a role in preventing suicide

Why is suicide a public health problem?

  • In 2011, 39,518 people killed themselves—an average of 108 each day 
  • In 2011, over 487,700 people with self-inflicted injuries were treated in U.S. emergency departments 
  • Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States 

    • Ranked third among persons 15-24 years old 
    • Ranked second among persons 25-34 years old 

    • Ranked fourth among persons 35-54 years old 

    • Ranked eighth among persons 55-64 years old 

    • Ranked tenth overall  

Who is at risk for suicide?

There is no single cause of suicide. Several factors can increase a person’s risk for attempting or dying by suicide. However, having these risk factors does not always mean that suicide will occur.  

Risk factors for suicide include:   

  • Previous suicide attempt(s) 
  • History of depression or other mental illness 
  • Alcohol or drug abuse 
  • Family history of suicide or violence 
  • Physical illness 
  • Feeling alone  

To learn more about suicide risk, go to cdc.gov/violenceprevention/suicide/riskprotectivefactors.html 

How can we prevent suicide?

While its causes are complex, the goal of suicide prevention is simple – reduce factors that increase risk and increase factors that promote resilience or coping. With a public health approach, prevention occurs at all levels of society – from the individual, family, and community levels to the broader social environment. 

Warning signs of suicidal behaviors 

Everyone can play a role in preventing suicide by being aware of the warning signs of suicidal behaviors:  

  • Talking about wanting to die, feeling hopeless, trapped, in unbearable pain, or being a burden to others   
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself 
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs 
  • Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless 
  • Sleeping too little or too much 
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated 
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge 
  • Displaying extreme mood swings  

What you can do  

If you believe someone is at risk of suicide:   

  • Ask them if they are thinking about killing themselves (This will not put the idea into their heads, or make it more likely that they will attempt suicide.) 
  • Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) 
  • Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional 
  • Remove any objects that could be used in a suicide attempt 
  • If possible, do not leave the person alone  

    Do you or someone you know need help?  

    If you or someone else is experiencing a dangerous or life threatening emergency, please call 911 immediately.  

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, help is available:  

Resources

National Strategy for Suicide Prevention: actionallianceforsuicideprevention.org/nssp 

Virginia Department of Health Suicide Prevention Program: vdh.virginia.gov/ofhs/prevention/preventsuicideva/ 

Mental Health First Aid Training (MHFA): The Alexandria Department of Community and Human Services is offering MHFA. This 8-hour skills-based training enables you to help persons who are developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. More information about the training is available here, or visit the online registration form for class dates and registration. 

For more information about MHFA, visit mentalhealthfirstaid.org.