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Public Health - Seattle & King County

Suicide prevention

Suicide was a leading cause of death in the United States in 2010, representing 38,364 deaths.This represents a major, preventable public health problem. While risk factors including mental and substance abuse disorders, family history of suicide, firearms in the home and incarceration, suicide can affect anyone. By educating ourselves and others, we can make a difference in preventing suicides.

In Washington, suicide was the leading all-ages cause of injury death in 2010, accounting for 947 deaths. During this same period, 3,736 people were hospitalized for attempted suicide.
...Washington State Dept. of Health, Injury Data Tables, August 2012

King County overall has a lower rate of suicide when compared nationally; however, it has recently seen an increase in the number of suicides. In 2010, there were 226 suicide deaths, approximately 25% more than in 2001. The most frequent suicide methods include:

  • Firearms (38%)
  • Poisoning (24%)
  • Suffocation (21%)
  • Cut/Pierce (4%)
    ...Washington State Dept. of Health, Injury Data Tables, August 2012

With firearms being the leading cause of suicide death, prevention surrounding safe storage of firearms is essential. Visit our LOK-IT-UP page to learn more about this prevention area.

Prevention is possible!

Community-wide suicide prevention requires long-term commitment to the issue and to changing behaviors and attitudes in individuals, families and communities at large. Although the underlying causes to suicidal thoughts and attempts of a person can seem overwhelming, there are several ways that you can help with prevention efforts.

First, know the warning signs...

There is no typical suicide victim; however, there are some common characteristics. When acted upon, they can help save lives.

The most common are:

  • A previous suicide attempt
  • Current talk of suicide or making a plan
  • Strong wish to die or a preoccupation with death
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Signs of depression, such as moodiness, hopelessness and withdrawal
  • Increased alcohol and/or drug use
  • Hinting at not being around in the future or saying goodbye
  • Experiences drastic changes in behavior

These are especially noteworthy in light of:

  • Recent losses, such as the death or suicide of a friend or family member
    ...Youth Suicide Prevention Program, "Know the Warning Signs", May, 2011 and American Association of Suicidology, May, 2011

There are many feelings that a person considering suicide might be feeling, including:

  • Can't stop the pain
  • Can't think clearly
  • Can't make decisions
  • Can't see any way out
  • Can't eat, sleep or work
  • Can't make the sadness go away
  • Can't see a future without pain
  • Can't see themselves as worthwhile
  • Can't get someone's attention
  • Can't get control
American Association of Suicidology, May, 2011

Next, show you care...

Knowing the above warning signs is important. If you see these warning signs in a close friend, take them seriously. Showing that you care by talking about your own feelings and asking them about theirs is a good step.

This can be such statements as:

  • "I'm worried about you, about how you feel."
  • "You mean a lot to me. I want to help."
  • "You don't seem like yourself lately. I'm here, if you need someone to talk to."

Be direct...

Be willing to be direct and talk openly about suicide. It can be difficult, but try to approach your friend from a non-judgmental place, not debating whether suicide is right or wrong. Emphasize your openness to listen and to be there for this person.

Ask direct questions, such as "are you thinking about suicide or killing yourself?" to assess the seriousness of the situation. Asking about one "hurting themselves" is not the same as talking about suicide.

Get help...

Don't ever offer to keep talk of suicide a secret, even if you are asked, and don't leave the person alone without safety resources. Instead, get help from available resources and someone with the skills to provide support. These can be:

  • A community mental health agency
  • A private therapist or counselor
  • A school counselor or psychologist
  • A family physician
  • A suicide prevention or crisis center (King County Crisis Clinic at 1-866-427-4747)

Youth suicide prevention

Learn more about what you can do to prevent youth suicide by visiting the Youth Suicide Prevention Program website. YSPP provides FREE TRAINING to those who live or work in King County.

An average of 2 youth between the ages of 10 and 24 kill themselves each week in Washington State. In 2009, youth ages 15 to 19 years accounted for the highest hospitalized attempt rate in Washington -- they accounted for 12% of attempted hospitalizations. Although recent data shows decreases in the numbers of youth reporting that they've attempted suicide, increased prevention and awareness continues to be essential.
...Washington State Data Injury Sheets, 2011 & Youth Suicide Prevention Program, Statistics, 2011

In addition to warning signs, risk factors for youth suicide can include:

  • Easy access to firearms
  • Alcohol and substance abuse
  • Impulsiveness and taking unnecessary risks
  • Lack of connection to family and friends (no one to talk to)
  • A recent break-up with a boyfriend or girlfriend
  • A recent death or suicide of a friend or family member
    ...Youth Suicide Prevention Program, "Know the Warning Signs", May, 2011

The most recent data from the Healthy Youth Survey reveals a statistically significant decline among 10th graders who reported making a suicide attempt in the prior 12 months (from taking the survey). The percentage on the Healthy Youth Survey in 2008 was 8.9% and this most recent survey indicates a rate of 7.2%. Although this is still too high, it is an encouraging development.
...Youth Suicide Prevention Program, Healthy Youth Survey, 2011

Resources

  • American Association of Suicidology
    This resource provides accurate, concise and up-to-date information, education and resources regarding suicide prevention.

  • American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
    AFSP provides suicide prevention educational resources, information for survivors of suicide, and grants to fund research. AFSP is also the host for Out of the Darkness Community Walks.

  • Crisis Clinic of King County
    This 24 hour, toll-free, telephone hotline provides immediate, confidential assistance to people in distress in the King County area. Call 1-866-4-CRISIS (1-866-427-4747) or 206-461-3222.

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
    Provides 24 hour, toll-free, telephone support for anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress and provides information to locate crisis clinics and resources throughout the U.S. Para información en español: 1-888-628-9454

  • Suicide Prevention Resource Center
    SPRC provides training, prevention resources and support to support interventions, program, and policy development. Primary Care Prevention toolkits and School-Based toolkits are available for download online.

  • Veterans Crisis Line
    Veterans and family members can receive confidential help by calling 1-800-273-8255 (then PRESS 1). Visit online to access confidential online chat help.

  • Youth Suicide Prevention Program
    YSPP's mission is to reduce youth suicide attempts and deaths in Washington State. Provides free training, education, and resources for youth, schools and caregivers for preventing youth suicide.

cell phone

Need immediate help?
If you are in immediate danger, dial 9-1-1.

  • Call the King County Crisis Clinic at 1-866-427-4747.

  • Call the Trevor Project for LGBTQ help at 1-866-488-7386.

  • If you're a teen and would prefer to talk with a peer, call Teen Link at 1-866-833-6546 from 6 – 10 PM, 365 days a year!

  • Online instant message support is also available through Crisis Chat!