Suicide Awareness and Prevention

Updated September 8, 2020

When an individual dies by suicide, it can have long lasting effects on families and their communities.

Jeffrey Magill, MS, of the Crisis Training Institute, discusses the warning signs and prevention. The Crisis Training Institute is part of UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital and UPMC Western Behavioral Health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly 48,000 people in the United States die by suicide each year. The Substance Abuse Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) estimates that nearly 8.4 million individuals 18 or older in the United States experience thoughts of suicide on a yearly basis and of those individuals, 2.2 million have developed a plan of how they might die by suicide.

In the event of a crisis, call resolve Crisis Services 24/7/365 at 1-888-7-YOU-CAN (1-888-796-8226).

If you are located outside of Allegheny County, please call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Common myths exist and sometimes, suicide is viewed as an unmentionable subject in our society. For example, people may believe that by asking an individual if he or she is having suicidal thoughts, they may be planting the idea into that person’s thoughts. When in reality, asking a person directly about his or her thoughts can lead to a conversation about an individual’s potential risk for suicide.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more than 90 percent of people who die by suicide have been diagnosed with a mental illness. Some of those conditions include depression, schizophrenia, bipolar, post-traumatic stress disorder, and eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia. While major depression is the psychiatric diagnosis often associated with suicide and suicidal behaviors, depression is treatable in most cases.

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Warning Signs for Suicide

The following signs may mean someone is at risk for suicide. The risk of suicide is greater if a behavior is new or has increased and if it seems related to a painful event, loss, or change. If you or someone you know exhibits any of these signs, seek help as soon as possible by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or your local county crisis line. In Allegheny County, call resolve Crisis Services at 1-888-7-YOU-CAN (796-8226). If immediate help is needed call 911.

  • Threatening to or talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself
  • Looking for ways to kill oneself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other dangerous means
  • Talking, writing, or looking up on the internet about death, dying, or suicide when these actions are out of the ordinary for the person or if the person has previously thought about or talked about wanting to die or suicide
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling rage or uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities — seemingly without thinking
  • Feeling trapped — like there’s no way out
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, and society
  • Feeling anxious, agitated, or unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
  • Experiencing dramatic mood changes
  • Seeing no reason for living or having no sense of purpose in life
  • Giving away possessions
  • Saying concerning statements such as:
    • I just can’t take it anymore
    • All of my problems will end soon
    • No one can do anything to help me now

Suicide Prevention – What can you do?

The goal is to recognize warning signs, reduce risk factors, and to increase protective factors that may help promote life during a time of crisis.

Encourage and support family and friends with psychiatric and substance abuse disorders to get help BEFORE a suicidal crisis ensues.

To learn more about taking action and helping people in crisis, visit the “Be the 1 To” campaign website from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Crisis and Support Contacts

If you are concerned about someone, it is okay to ask if they are suicidal or having thoughts about killing themselves. If they say yes – or if they say no and you are still concerned about them – stay with them and reach out for help. There are multiple resources you can contact:

  • Crisis Text Line: Text “START” to 741-741
  • Trevor Lifeline (for LGBTQ+ Youth): 1-866-488-7386
  • resolve Crisis Services (Allegheny County): 1-888-7-YOU-CAN (1-888-796-8226)
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Disaster Distress Hotline: 1-800-985-5990
  • Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 and select option 1
  • Emergency: 911
  • Find information about training programs, such as ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training), that are offered by the Crisis Training Institute.


National Strategy for Suicide Prevention

About Behavioral Health

UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital provides high-quality, cutting-edge psychiatric and addiction services. We serve all ages of people at all stages of recovery. We provide diagnostic services and treatment for all types of psychiatric and mental health conditions. We serve more than 25,000 patients each year. Our hospital, in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood, has more than 400 inpatient beds. Western Psychiatric partners academically with the Department of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine. Together they conduct research and clinical trials.