If your need is immediate & someone is in danger of harming themselves or someone else, phone 911.
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- Crisis Services
- NAMI Crisis Guide
- Recognizing an Emergency
- What To Do
- Be Prepared
- Eliminate Barriers
- Family Participation Rights and Responsibilities
- Patient History Form
- Psychiatric Hospitals
- Questions for the Physician
- What to do if Someone with a Mental Illness is arrested.
- Getting Help / Preventing Suicide
- Finding a Missing Person
Make sure to indicate this is a crisis call so it can be directed to the proper person.
Yolo County Mental Health Urgent Care for Adults Ages 18 and Over
Crisis assessment and supportive counseling; referrals to other local community resources
500 Jefferson Blvd., Building B, West Sacramento, CA Map
Open 7 days per week from 12 noon – 9 p.m. (closed County holidays)
Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Davis: (530) 757-5537
Woodland: (530) 666-8630
Davis: (530) 756-5000
Woodland: (530) 666-7778
West Sacramento: (916) 372-6565
Woodland: (530) 662-1133
West Sacramento: (916) 371-1907
Davis: (530) 753-0797
Woodland: (530) 668-8445
West Sacramento: (916) 371-3779
Woodland Memorial Hospital (530) 662-3961
Sutter Davis Hospital (530) 756-6440
(formerly Peterson Clinic)
Families and friends sometimes have a difficult time making the hard decision to phone for emergency help when a family member or friend with a psychiatric disability is experiencing severe symptoms. Sometimes the situation is clearly an emergency. Other times, it’s not so clear, especially when a person’s psychiatric disorder is emerging and/or family members and friends are inexperienced.
Here are some guidelines from NAMI San Francisco to help:
The situation is an emergency when your family member or loved one is:
- Inflicting or attempting to inflict serious bodily harm on another.
- Gravely disabled: unable to provide for own food, clothing, shelter to the extent that death, bodily injury or physical debilitation might result without treatment.
- Attempting suicide or behaving as though he or she intends to follow through with verbal threats.
- Mutilating or attempting to mutilate himself/herself.
- Acutely distressed by hearing or seeing things which do not exist.
- Expressing serious thoughts about hurting themselves or someone else
- Experiencing uncontrollable anxiety or anger.
- Having a severe reaction to psychiatric medication.
What to Do in an Emergency
(Source: NAMI San Francisco)
Don’t shout into the phone or at arriving officers or medical professionals. They can’t understand you if you shout.
On the Phone
Be ready to give concrete examples of the dangerous behaviors and to support your contention that the person is mentally ill. For example, say, “My daughter pulled a knife” as opposed to “My daughter wants to kill me.”
State over the phone the following information and be ready to repeat it to arriving police officers and/or medical professionals:
- Your name.
- Your address.
- Family member’s name.
- Your relationship.
- That the person is mentally ill and give the diagnosis.
- State whether medications are being used, whether it was stopped and when was the last time the meds were taken.
- Describe what your family member is doing now.
- Say whether you feel threatened.
- Say whether your family member is hearing voices or fears someone.
- Say whether a weapon is in the house — to minimize further agitation, remove any guns from the house before the police arrive
- Say where inside the house is your family member
- Say whether there is a history of violence
Until professionals arrive, STAY CALM
- Be polite, respectful, reassuring, low-key and direct with your family member.
- Maintain on-going communication directly with the person and do not include others in side conversations.
- Do not try to trick or deceive your family member.
- Avoid immediately moving in close or touching the person unless necessary.
- Remove all objects with which a person may do harm to self or others.
When Professionals Arrive
- Have all the lights on inside the house.
- Identify yourself.
- Carry nothing in your hands especially coming outside to meet them, in which case walk, don’t run to meet them.
- Don’t ramble.
- Be prepared to repeat the information you gave over the phone.
- State whether there is a history of suicide attempts.
- State whether your family member is violent or delusional.
- Have treating psychiatrist’s phone number handy.
Family Participation Rights and Guidelines
DON’T GET LOST IN THE SHUFFLE
- Families are not to blame.
- Ask what you can do for your family member.
- Keep a list of questions to ask the psychiatrist.
- Know your rights. Protect your family.
HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) is often used by mental health providers who don’t fully understand its purpose and limitations, to completely block communication with family members. These U.S. Department of Health & Human Services guidelines clarify and give examples of sharing mental health information with family members. This document can be used as a basis to open a dialog with providers about when and what information can be shared using HIPAA as it’s meant to be applied. HIPAA Privacy Rules & Sharing Information related to Mental Health
Here is a guide from the family point of view. Understanding What HIPAA Means for Mental Illness
Families are often shut out even when people who have mental illness sign waivers.
If your family member regularly signs waivers, make sure they sign a new waiver each time they enter a new facility. Most waivers need renewing each year.
Strategies if a Family Member Does Not Sign a Confidentiality Waiver
- Mental health professionals can’t talk with you about your family member’s situation without a confidentiality waiver. However, you can talk with them or send them information. Your historical memory of the illness and your relative is valuable to treatment and you should be keeping a diary. Here is a form you can give to the clinician. It’s imperative to consider requesting confidentiality to not share this information with your relative.
- If you know or suspect your family member is in a specific facility and a waiver has not been signed, you can send a letter detailing your relative’s history, different characteristics you’ve noted about their illness, medications etc.
- You may also call the clinicians and give them information over the phone, but limited resources in the mental health system may make them difficult to reach in person.
- You can ask the treating psychiatrist questions about “patients with symptoms similar to your relative’s,” how families can help in situations where patients are ________.
- These types of questions do not conflict with most confidentiality laws. If the treating psychiatrist is not helpful, ask questions of another psychiatrist on the treatment staff.
Family Participation Statutory Rights & Guidelines
The following is a summary of current California Law prepared by NAMI California For additional information, refer to the statues cited, or consult an attorney.
Statement of Policy Families of clients in mental health facilities should be encouraged to participate in the assessment, treatment and aftercare planning process for each client, consistent with the best interests and wish of the client. The right [of a spouse, parent, child, or sibling] to be given notification of the client’s presence in a 24-hour facility, unless the client requests that this information not be provided. [Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code 5328.1]
- The right to be given information regarding the diagnosis, prognosis, prescribed medication and side effects, and progress of the client, if authorized by the client. If the client is initially unable to authorize the release of this information, daily efforts shall be made to secure the client’s consent or refusal of authorization.[Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code 5328.1]
- The right to have the family make reasonable attempts to notify the immediate family of the client’s admission, release, transfer, serious illness, injury or death, unless the client requests that the information not be provided.[Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code 5328.1(b)]
- The right to see and receive copies of information and records regarding the client, with the consent of the client and approval of the treating physician, psychologist or social worker. [Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code 5328(b)]
- The right to a copy of the written aftercare plan when the client is discharged from an inpatient psychiatric facility, when designated by the client. (effective January 1998) [Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code 5622, 5768.5]
- The right to have removed from the client’s record any information provided in confidence by the family, prior to release. [Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code 5328(b)(d)(j)(k), 5543]
- The right to have removed from the client’s record any information provided in confidence by the family, prior to release. [Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code 5328(b)(d)(j)(k), 5543
- ]The right to be given required information concerning the administration of convulsive treatment or psychosurgery, if authorized by the client. [Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code 5326.6(b), 5326.7(c)]
- The right to receive copies of public information, including licensing and other reports. [Cal. Gov’t Doc 6250 et seq.]
- The right to visit the client every day, if desired by the client. [Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code 5325(c)
- ]The right to have confidential phone calls with the client and to mail and receive unopened correspondence, if desired by the client. [Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code 5325(d)&(e)]
- The right to provide clothing, personal possession and a reasonable sum of money to the client for us in the facility, if desired by the client. [Cal. Welf. & Inst. code 5325(a)]
- The right to participate in the treatment and rehabilitation planning of the client, as a source of information and support. Included in the participation is the identification of service needs, and advocating for, and coordinating the provision of these services, as appropriate.[Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code 5600.2(a), 5600.4(c)]
- The right to be advised of the time and place of certification review hearings, judicial review, conservatorship proceedings, unless the client requests that this information not be provided. [Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code 5256.4(c), 5276, 5350.2]
- The right to be appointed conservator or to nominate a conservator subject to the priorities and preferences in the Probate Court. [Cal. Probate Code 1810-1813]
- The right to have the first priority for conservatee placement be a facility as close as possible to the conservatee’s home or home of a relative. [Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code 5358(c)]
- The right to submit a complain regarding abuse, unreasonable denial or punitive withholding of rights concerning a resident in a license health or community care facility to a clients’ rights advocate for investigation. [Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code 5520(a)]
- The right (unless found not to be acting in good faith) to be immune from civil or criminal liability, penalty, sanction or restriction for participating in the filing a complaint of providing information to the patients’ rights advocate. [Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code 5550(a)]
- The right to be informed of the telephone number by the facility of where to file complaints with the Department of Health Services, Licensing and Certification Program. [Cal. Health and Safety Code 1288.4] Profession licensing boards and other regulatory and enforcement agencies may also be contacted to register complaints about the facility or personnel .
- The right to not have the client discriminated or retaliated against for the family members’ participation in any advocacy activity. [Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code 5550(c)]
- Cal. Government Code,
- Cal. ProbateCode,
- Cal. Welf & Inst. Code,
- Title 22 Cal. Code of Regs.,
- Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organization Standards,
- California Association of Hospitals and HealthSystems Consent Manual.
October 1997, Updated July 2017
Mental health professionals can’t talk with you about your family member’s situation without a confidentiality waiver. However, you can talk with them or send them information. Your historical memory of the illness and your relative is valuable to treatment and you should be keeping a diary. Here is a form you can give to the clinician. It’s imperative to consider requesting confidentiality to not share this information with your relative.
These are some of the psychiatric hospitals where Yolo County clients can be sent for treatment. Most patients are first evaluated at Sutter Hospital in Davis or Woodland Memorial Hospital. If they need to be placed on hold for treatment, they can be sent to any of the hospitals listed below except Sutter Davis, which is for psychiatric evaluation only.
|Sutter Health Davis (Psychiatric emergency care only)||2000 Sutter Place, Davis, CA 95616||530-756-6440|
|Woodland Memorial Hospital||1325 Cottonwood St, Woodland, CA 95695||530-662-3961|
|Heritage Oaks Hospital||4250 Auburn Blvd., Sacramento, CA 95841||916-489-3336|
|Kaiser Permanente Hospital – Adult Psychiatry|
|Folsom||2155 Iron Point Road Folsom, CA 95630||916-973-5300|
|Rancho Cordova||10725 International DR, Rancho Cordova, CA 95670||916-973-5300|
|Roseville||1660 E. Roseville Parkway, Suite 100, Roseville, CA 95661||916-973-5300|
|Sacramento||2025 Morse Ave., Sacramento, CA 95825||916-973-5300|
|Sacramento County Mental Health Treatment Center||2150 Stockton Blvd., Sacramento, CA 95817||916-875-1000|
|Sierra Vista Hospital||8001 Bruceville Rd, Sacramento, CA 95823||916-423-2000|
|Sutter Center for Psychiatry||7700 Folsom Blvd., Sacramento, CA 95826||916-386-3000 or
|Crestwood Behavioral Health||Crestwood offers treatment and services throughout California including Carmichael, Sacramento, Eureka, San Jose; See the website for full list and contact information.|
|Aurora Santa Rosa Hospital||1287 Fulton Road
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
|Please note: Aurora Hospital in Santa Rosa should be avoided if possible because at this time (Jan 2018) it does not adequately discharge their out-of-area patients well.|
Questions to Ask the Physician / Psychiatrist
(Source: NAMI San Francisco)
The following are questions to ask the treating physician about your family member which don’t conflict with confidentiality laws in some states. If you fail to learn anything from the treating physician, try another doctor at the program or hospital where your family member is getting treatment
- What is the diagnosis? What is the nature of this illness from a medical point of view?
- What is known about the cause of this particular illness?
- How certain are you of this diagnosis? If you are not certain, what other possibilities do you consider most likely and why?
- Did the physical examination include a neurological exam? If so, how extensive was it, and what were the results?
- Are there any additional tests or exams that you would recommend at this point?
- Would you advise an independent opinion from another psychiatrist at this point?
- What program of treatment do you think could be most helpful? How will it be helpful?
- Will this program involve services by other specialists ( i.e. neurologist, psychologist, allied health professionals. )? If so, who will be responsible for coordinating these services?
- Who will be able to answer our questions at times when you are not available?
- What kind of therapy do you plan to use, and what will be the contribution of the psychiatrist to the overall program of treatment?
- What do you expect this program to accomplish? About how long will it take, and how frequently will you and the other specialists be seeing the patient?
- What will be the best evidence that the patient is responding to the program, and how soon will it be before these appear?
- What do you see as the family’s role in this program of treatment? In particular, how much access will the family have to the individuals who are providing the treatment?
- If your current evaluation is a preliminary one, how soon will it be before you will be able to provide a more definite evaluation of the patient’s illness?
- What medication do you propose to use? ( Ask for name and dosage level and write it down.) What is the biological effect of this medication, and what do you expect it to accomplish? What are the risks associated with the medication? How soon will we be able to tell if the medication is effective, and how will we know?
- Are there other medications that might be appropriate? If so, why do you prefer the one you have chosen?
- Are you currently treating other patients with this illness? (Psychiatrists vary in their level of experience with severe or long-term mental illnesses, and it is helpful to know how involved the psychiatrist is with treatment of the kind of problem your relative has.)
- When are the best times and what are the most dependable ways for getting in touch with you?
- How do you monitor medications and what symptoms indicate that they should be raised, lowered or changed?
My Family Member Has Been Arrested.
What Do I Do?
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This document is a step-by-step guide to help families cope with the criminal justice system in Yolo County when a family member who suffers from a mental illness is arrested. This informational guide was written by NAMI volunteers based on their own personal experience in consultation with Yolo County Alcohol, Drug, and Mental Health Department staff and staff from California Forensic Medical Group (CFMG) and the Sheriff’s Department to help families navigate the forensic system. We are not attorneys, and this is not intended to be a substitute for professional legal advice. Please assist your family member in obtaining proper legal representation.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. STEPS YOU CAN TAKE
B. IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS
- If your family member/friend calls you and says that he/she has been arrested, help him/her stay calm and offer your help and support.
- If your family member/friend is being held by the authorities in custody and being interrogated by investigators, remind him/her of the right to have an attorney. When being questioned by intake officers at the jail, it is not necessary to have an attorney present as the questions being asked will pertain solely to the arrestee’s current and past medical condition and to determine proper housing classification.
- If he/she is already at the Monroe Detention Center, he/she will be screened for mental illness, as well as other health concerns, upon arrival. It is very important that they be direct and honest to benefit as much as possible from this screening process. The process includes a survey with questions regarding whether he/she has a mental illness and is taking any medications.
- Assure your family member that it is OK to discuss his/her physical and mental condition, diagnosis, medications, etc., with the staff conducting the screening, which includes California Forensics Medical Group (CFMG) health services staff and/or psychiatric services staff.
- It is important your family member feels safe to speak openly with the health/mental health screeners.
- All belongings a person comes in with are held at the jail and cannot be made available to your family member.
- Try to visit your loved one at least once a week. Note,
- You must be able to clear a metal detector.
- There is a specific dress code for visitors.
- Photo ID is required.
Jail can be a very scary experience for someone with a mental disorder and it helps to have someone familiar and empathetic to talk with.
Step 2: CONTACT THE MONROE CENTER (Yolo County Jail)
The Monroe Detention Center is located at
140A Tony Diaz Drive
Woodland, CA 95776.
Phone: (530) 668-JAIL(5245)
Call 530-668-5245 to determine:
- your relative’s status.
- expected release date and time.
- court arraignment date, address and court department number.
- where your family member is housed. (note: inmates are often moved around, so check before each visit)
- his/her booking number.
Use the links to access some of the following:
- Detention / Jail
If you are unable to locate your relative, try any names he/she has used. In case of a serious family emergency call and ask to speak with the shift Sergeant.
CFMG appreciates receiving information from family members about individuals’ medications, treatment histories, etc. and attempts to verify and re-start any psychiatric medications as soon as possible. Note: medication may not be administered until your relative is screened/processed, and the psychiatric staff can verify the medication order. You can provide information by phone or in writing. Written information can be mailed to: Monroe Detention Center Attention: CFMG 140A Tony Diaz Drive Woodland, CA 95776 or drop it off at the jail in a sealed envelope. By phone, call 530-668-5245 – you will get a phone tree.
- press 1 or 2 for language
- press 1 for list of options
- press 7 for medical
On Monday thru Friday, 8:00 – 4:00, a clerk is available to answer the phone in the medical unit. At other times there may not be a staff person in the office as they are out with patients. Request to speak with a member of the CFMG psychiatric services staff or leave a detailed voice message if staff are not available. See the Information sheet to help organize medical and psychiatric information. Include:
- your relative’s full legal name and date of birth
- mental illness diagnosis
- psychiatrist’s name, phone number, and address
- current medications – name, dosage, and time of day to be administered
- name and location of the pharmacy that dispensed these medications
- history of negative experiences with medications
- history of alcohol or other substance abuse
- history of suicide attempts/threats or other violent intentions in the recent past, briefly describing the events and when they occurred
- history of (or potential for) victimization by other inmates.
- other medical conditions that might require immediate attention, (e.g. diabetes, high blood pressure, seizures. . . . ) and medications currently prescribed for those conditions.
- medical doctor’s name, address, and phone
Do NOT address any impending charges against your family member in this communication. Medical information only! Keep a copy of this information for future use.
The medical information you provide is tremendously valuable in making an assessment and will help the mental health staff select the best treatment for your relative. There is a clear preference for maintaining effective current treatment. However, the CFMG psychiatric services staff will conduct an assessment of your relative’s current condition and may not necessarily prescribe exactly the same medications.
Step 4: DECIDING ON LEGAL REPRESENTATION
If your family member is financially indigent, he or she is entitled to the services of an attorney from the Public Defender’s Office. The court will appoint the public defender at the first court appearance, known as the arraignment. Do not hesitate to use a public defender. Public defenders are more familiar with the court processes, the judges and the district attorneys and often have frequent first hand experience with defendants who have a mental illness than most private attorneys. A public defender will therefore be very likely to know what legal and treatment options are available to their clients. If your family member decides to retain a private attorney, be sure to select one that is well versed in helping people with mental illness and understands how to access the treatment facilities and mental health services that are available.
Think carefully about posting bail for your family member. No one wants a loved one to remain incarcerated for any length of time. It is an unpleasant experience for them as well as the family. However, you must ask yourself the following question. Will your family member be able to comply with the terms of the bail and appear in court when required?
WORKING WITH AN ATTORNEY:
Public Defenders (PDs) are extremely busy and do not have much time to take or return phone calls. Often PDs will not know that they have been assigned to a particular individual’s case until very shortly before a first court appearance. Do not assume that the initial court file has any reference to your family member’s mental illness in it.
If a public defender (PD) has not been assigned or you can’t obtain that information, it is still important to share the written medical history information that you also have provided to CFMG. The only reliable way to do this is to plan to attend the first court hearing if you are able and to deliver your written document to the PD. Arrive early. Bailiffs (Sheriff’s Deputies assigned to a particular court room) can assist you in passing along written information to PDs, and even having a brief word immediately before hearings.
PDs appreciate written or faxed correspondence. Remember, it is the inmate, not you, who is his client. A private attorney will grant you more time, but remember you are paying for that access. Provide the attorney with an extensive medical/psychiatric/social/educational history of your family member in writing. All of this is information that can very useful in pursuing the best outcome for your loved one.
Phone: (530) 666-8165
FAX: (530) 666-8405
SPECIAL NOTE: After business hours and on weekends, the Public Defender’s Office regular telephone number (530-666-8165) switches to an automated system that offers an additional menu option to reach an attorney on urgent matters (e.g. people subject to being interrogated or asked to participate in a lineup). Please do not use this after-hours option for routine questions that should be asked on the next business day. It is important to limit use of this option to very urgent purposes, such as interrogations or lineups. In other words, before connecting to an attorney in the middle of the night — or on the weekend — folks should carefully consider whether or not an attorney would be able to help the situation when the courts are closed.
ADDITIONAL CONTACTS AND INFORMATION
Supporting and coping with a loved one who suffers from a mental illness can be extremely challenging and stressful. Knowledge, as well as your love and fortitude, will be essential in helping you to become a strong and effective support system for your family member.
For information about support groups and educational programs provided free of charge in your area, contact
This document was last updated October 4, 2017. If any of this information is inaccurate or in need of updates, please send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
Suicide: What Should A Parent Know?
Source: National Association of School Psychologists
Suicide is one of the most serious symptoms associated with depression. Although not everyone with depression thinks seriously about suicide, depression and suicide frequently occur together. If someone in your family has depression, you should learn more about the warning signs of suicide and what to do to prevent suicide from happening.
Some Facts about Suicide
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds and the fourth leading cause of death for 10- to 14-year-olds.
- Boys are more likely to commit suicide but girls attempt suicide more frequently than boys.
- The rate of reported suicide has increased dramatically among 15- to 19-year-old males over the last four decades; but has remained stable among females and 10- to 14-year-olds.
Depression and suicidal feelings are treatable problems. Therefore, it is very important to recognize the warning signs that someone may be considering suicide. Be aware of the following signs or risk factors of young people who may try to kill themselves:
- Drug or alcohol use or abuse
- Previous suicide attempt
- Withdrawal from friends, family or activities
- Neglect of personal appearance, how they look
- Running away from home or unusual rebelliousness
- Engaging in risky behaviors (e.g., reckless driving, running in street)
- Pregnancy or other significant life changes
- Drastic change in eating or sleeping patterns.
- Putting things in order, such as giving away valued possessions or cleaning their room
- Hints such as “I’d be better off dead” or “You won’t have to worry about me much longer”
- Writing about death or drawing morbid pictures
Suicide attempts sometimes occur when the depression improves somewhat, as the young person gets more energy to act out on these thoughts. Some young people will also seem to be more cheerful because they experience the decision to kill themselves as a relief from their suffering and emotional pain.
What Can I Do?
If you suspect that your child may be considering suicide, take it very seriously. Many suicides can be prevented. The warning signs should not be ignored.
- Talk to your child or teenager. Talking about suicide does not put ideas in the child’s head or make them more likely to act on their thoughts. Instead, it lets him or her know that you care and that you want to help them feel better.
- Listen to your child’s concerns or problems. Remember that even minor concerns can be very important toa young person. Don’t dismiss their feelings or try to solve the problems. Be a good listener.
- Discuss a plan with your teen about what they will do if they feel suicidal. Help them make a list of people they can talk to when they are feeling suicidal. Have an agreement that they will not be alone when they are feeling very depressed or out of control.
- Take responsibility for giving your child their medications. Watch and make sure they don’t have access to more than one dose.
- Remove all lethal objects from the home. This includes guns, medications, razors and knives. Don’t trust that hiding these objects in the home is adequate.
- In crises, call your child’s counselor or psychiatrist or 911. They will help you decide what needs to happento keep your child safe. Remember, nothing is more important than making sure your child remains safe through this time.
Source: Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation
Suicide Warning Signs
Warning signs are observable behaviors that may signal the presence of suicidal thinking. They may be considered cries for help or invitations to intervene:
- Suicide threats: It has been estimated that 80% of all suicide victims have given some clues regarding their intentions. Both direct (“I want to kill myself.”) and indirect (“I wish I could fall asleep and never wake up.”) threats need to be taken seriously.
- Suicide notes and plans: The presence of a suicide note is a very significant sign of danger. The greater the planning revealed by the youth, the greater the risk of suicidal behavior.
- Prior suicidal behavior: Prior behavior is a powerful predictor of future behavior. Therefore, anyone with a history of suicidal behavior should be carefully observed for future suicidal behavior.
- Making final arrangements: Making funeral arrangements, writing a will, and/or giving away prized possessions may be warning signs of impending suicidal behavior.
- Preoccupation with death: Excessive talking, drawing, reading, and/or writing about death may suggest suicidal thinking.
- Changes in behavior, appearance, thoughts, and/or feelings: Depression (especially when combined with hopelessness), sudden happiness (especially when preceded by significant depression), a move toward social isolation, giving away personal possessions, and reduced interest in previously important activities are among the changes considered to be suicide warning signs.
Intervening to Prevent Suicide
When you see suicide warning signs, immediately ask whether the individual has suicidal thoughts. Be direct. For example: “Sometimes when people have your experiences and feelings, they have thoughts of suicide. Is this something you have thought about?” Failure to ask directly (saying, “You are not thinking of hurting yourself are you?”) may not give the needed permission to acknowledge suicidal thinking. When an individual acknowledges having thoughts of suicide, the following interventions should be undertaken:
- Remain calm: Becoming too excited or distressed will communicate that the potential caregiver is not able to talk about suicide.
- Listen: Allow for the discussion of experiences, thoughts, and feelings. Be prepared for expression of intense feelings.
- Do not judge: Try to understand the reasons for considering suicide without taking a position about whether or not the behavior is justified.
- Provide constant supervision: Especially when working with youth, do not leave the individual alone until a caregiver (often a parent) has been contacted and agrees to provide appropriate supervision.
- Remove means: As long as it does not put the caregiver in danger, attempt to remove the suicide means.
- Get help: For students this means not agreeing to keep the suicidal thinking of a friend a secret. Tell an adult or involve school mental health professionals, such as a school psychologist, as soon as possible. For parents and other adult caregivers getting help means taking action immediately. Seek guidance and support from school or community mental health resources.
- American Association of Suicidology
A membership organization of suicide experts (individuals and organizations) aimed at educating about suicide and its prevention and support research to achieve these goals.
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
A foundation dedicated to research and education to prevent suicide.
Suicide/HD research studies identified through the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s link to federally and privately funded studies worldwide.
A support group for individuals who survive the loss of a loved one to suicide.
- National Organization for People of Color Against Suicide
A not for profit organization founded by three African American suicide survivors with the goal of educating the minority community about suicide and suicide prevention.
- National Strategy for Suicide Prevention
A collaborative led by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
A 24-hour, toll-free suicide prevention service available to anyone in suicidal crisis. If you need help, please dial 1-800-273-TALK (8255).