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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Paulsen, MA, LMFT, RPT-S

Suicide Awareness & Prevention

Updated: Jan 12, 2023

“Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.”

― Lucius Annaeus Seneca

On April 19, 2022 I participated in a Town Hall on Mental Health & Suicide Awareness & Prevention presented by Project Safe CRCA as a panelist and felt it was important to share a summary of the discussion from that evening as well as some additional information. Thank you to the Jones County Safe & Healthy Youth Coalition for hosting!


  • Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death. (Source)

  • In 2020 there were 45,979 deaths by suicide.

  • 52.8% of deaths were by firearm, 27.2% by suffocation, 12% by poisoning, & 8% by other means. (Source)

  • From 2000-2020 the suicide rate was 3-4x higher in males than females.

  • “Research shows that men with comorbid depression and alcohol use have the highest long-term suicide risk (16.2%).” (Source)

  • “Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020), with LGBTQ youth being four times more likely to seriously consider suicide, to make a plan for suicide, and to attempt suicide than their peers (Johns et al., 2019; Johns et al., 2020).” (Source)

Risk Factors:

Suicidal thoughts do not discriminate but there are many reasons someone may have increased suicidal ideation including prolonged stress and stressful life events such as:

  • Depression or other mental health diagnosis, especially untreated

  • Substance use disorder

  • Grief & loss of loved one

  • Experiencing abuse or history of abuse

  • Past trauma history

  • Housing or financial stressors

  • Legal troubles or incarceration

  • Bullying or discrimination

  • Stressors related to gender identity or sexual orientation

  • Chronic pain or illness, terminal diagnosis, or traumatic brain injury (TBI)

  • Medication side effects

  • Breakup or divorce

  • Postpartum depression or anxiety

  • Isolation or loneliness

Additional Risk Factors:

  • History including individual’s history of attempts and family history of attempts

  • Access to lethal means

Protective Factors:

  • Accessing mental healthcare

  • Connection to others and positive supports

  • Problem solving and coping skills

  • Limited access to lethal means

Red Flags:

  • Talk of feeling hopeless or like they are a burden to others or stating they have no reason to live

  • Increased substance use (those with a Substance Use Disorder are 6x more likely to attempt suicide)

  • Giving away possessions, visiting or calling people to say goodbye, withdrawing or isolation

  • A sudden, unexplained elevation in mood (this can be a sign they’ve made a final decision to end their life and are relieved by this)

  • Access to lethal means

It’s important we take all suicidal comments seriously and ask follow-up questions to determine the level of severity and what we should do next. Sometimes a person does not want to die but rather does not want to live their current life due to a stressful situation or a feeling that they think may never go away.

First, ask directly, “Are you thinking/planning to kill yourself?”

Next, use the “IS PATH WARM” acronym to help you remember what to ask:

  • Ideation - Are they having suicidal thoughts?

  • Substances - Are they using substances or have they increased use of substances?

  • Purpose - Do they feel their life has purpose and meaning?

  • Anxiety - Are they agitated, restless, or fidgety?

  • Trapped - Do they feel there is no way out of their situation?

  • Hopelessness - Do they feel hopeless about the future? Can they not see the light at the end of the tunnel of their current stressor?

  • Withdrawal - Are they withdrawing from friends, family, hobbies, work/school, etc.?

  • Anger - Are they experiencing rage or seeking revenge?

  • Reckless - Are they engaging in risky or reckless behaviors?

  • Mood - Has there been a dramatic shift in their mood (from depressed to manic or from happy to depressed)?

Too much to remember? Ask if they are thinking of killing themself, ask how, ask what their plan is, & ask when.

Do not worry that asking will “put the thought in their head” or make them want to, it won’t!

If the answer is yes to many of these questions, seek help immediately using the following resources:

If you want to get started in therapy to manage suicidal thoughts, visit our Getting Started page and fill out our New Client Information Form.

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