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Education Meeting Review: Suicide Prevention

Many of us who are involved with NAMI have been touched by suicide. It is terrifying and heart breaking to watch your loved one crashing, to listen as they say there is no reason to go on, or worse yet, having them say nothing.

NAMI MC was very lucky to have Wendy Turner, LCSW-C, CCW, a supervisory therapist at the Montgomery County Crisis Center present on this important topic and provide the following notes on what to look for and keys to prevention. Her full presentation has been posted online at www.namimc.org/resources.asp.

Important Tips:

  • Each individual has a limited capacity for stress.
  • Communicate! Speak your fears and ask your loved one directly if they are suicidal.
  • Suicidal thoughts do not always require hospitalization.
  • During times of crisis lean on your treatment team and resources like the Crisis Center (240-777-4000 available 24 hrs a day 7 days a week) or a suicide helpline
  • If your loved one does express suicidal thoughts - you should contact their treatment team, or crisis services immediately.

Motivations for Suicidal Behavior:

  • To end pain
  • To escape problems/consequences
  • Excessive guilt
  • In response to psychotic symptoms
  • Communication
  • Attention-seeking
  • Manipulation
  • Cry for Help
Warning Signs:
  • Depressed mood
  • Hopelessness
  • Helplessness
  • Preoccupation with death, dying
  • Absence of focus on future, lack of pleasure in life
  • Comments about not being able to go on or life not worth living
  • Low self-worth
  • Unpleasant, derogatory or destructive command voices or messages
  • Very distressing symptoms such as disturbing, frightening delusions (false, fixed beliefs)
Risk Factors:
  • Acute or unresolved grief and loss issues
  • Health issues
  • Financial hardship
  • Legal hardship
  • Relationship issues
  • Mental illness
  • Failure to achieve normal age-related life goals
  • History (trauma, abuse, suicidal behavior)
  • Substance abuse
Keys to Prevention:
  • Early Recognition
  • Early Intervention
  • Enhancing support systems
  • Enhancing coping skills
  • Keeping communication channels open
  • Opportunities for observing
  • You can inform the treatment provider even if they don’t have a release to speak to you
  • Understanding the mental illness
  • Balancing demands placed on the person
  • “Pick your battles”
  • Living in your home provides additional leverage
  • On the other hand you may need to set limits/have the person move out if the home life is unmanageable/unsafe
In addition to many of the books listed on our resources page, Ms. Turner provided audience members with a copy of an article entitled "Messages of Suicide" by John L Hipple, Ph.D. which was originally published in the June/July 1989 issue of Adolescent Counselor magazine. This article, while providing information about youth and suicide, delineates a number of messages frequently heard from individuals contemplating suicide which Ms. Turner and her colleagues have found to be reliable across many age groups. Copies are available in the NAMI MC Office (11718 Parklawn Drive, Rockville, MD 20852, 301-949-5852).

Suicide may be the biggest fear for family members - but with awareness, education, communication, and support there are many ways to intervene and reduce the risk of suicide.


To see organizations, websites, and books about Suicide Prevention visit www.namimc.org/resources.asp


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