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Suicide is a significant public health issue for people of all ages in Los Angeles County. Fortunately, there is help available when contemplating suicide or self-harm, or in other moments of crisis.
We encourage everyone to get connected with supportive mental health resources, get educated about warning signs and prevention strategies, and to get informed about the data.
To talk to someone about self-harm and/or suicide or to get help now, call or text 988.
Suicide Prevention Overview & Definitions
What is Suicide Prevention? Why does it matter?
Suicide is preventable and we all have an important role to play in suicide prevention, no matter our age or background. Learning about suicide warning signs, definitions related to suicide and self harm reducing stigma towards mental health care, and what to do in moments of crisis can help prepare us all to better care for ourselves and others.
Suicide Prevention Overview & Definitions
Self-Harm Behavior deliberately intended to cause injury to oneself without intent to die.
Suicidal Ideation A spectrum of thoughts or emotions related to the idea of ending one's life or feeling like life is not worth living. These may remain internal or may be expressed to others.
Suicidal Attempt Self-inflicted injury with intent to die; may or may not result in injury.
Suicide Death from self-inflicted injuries intended to take ones life.
Suicidal Behavior Thoughts and behaviors that include thinking about, planning, attempting and/or dying by suicide.
Suicidal Prevention Coordinated efforts to reduce risk factors for suicide and to increase the protective factors that help promote personal resilience.
Suicide Warning Signs
Although we can never be certain, there are some recognizable indicators that can lead us to suspect someone we know or care about is considering self-harm or suicide. It is important to be able to recognize and identify these signs when someone might be in danger and to know how to navigate these moments when they occur (National Institute of Mental Health).
Warning signs to pay attention to may include the following:
Researching ways to die or making a clear plan to end a life
Calling other people to say goodbye or giving away personal items
Sudden increase in alcohol or drug use
Extreme mood swings
Sleeping for long amounts of time or rarely sleeping at all
Isolation and distance from others
Withdrawal from hobbies or activities
Engaging in dangerous risk taking
Feeling hopeless, or as if there is no reason to live
Extreme depression, sadness or a sudden loss of interest in hobbies, activities, or social activities
Sudden rage, anger, or irritability
Feelings of pain that feel too heavy to bear or manage
New or extreme embarrassment or humiliation
Relief or sudden improvement in previously upsetting or stressful circumstances
Making comments about wanting to die or "for this all to end"
Being a burden to those around them
Overwhelming mental, physical, or emotional pain
Thinking about or wanting to hurt themselves
Their guilt, shame, & embarrassment
Do not be afraid to ask directly about suicide or to share specific warning signs you've noticed. You will not put the idea into their head.
Listen carefully and acknowledge the challenging feelings they are facing. Remind them that you care for them and are there to listen, even if you do not fully understand what they are going through. Do not promise to keep anything secret, especially if they are a minor.
Ask them to share about their previous experiences - what has helped them cope or keep going when they have felt this way in the past?
Share resources, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Sit with them as they call if they express that they feel comfortable with you doing so. Help them to connect to family, community, and/or faith-based connections they know and trust.
Reduce access to lethal items such as firearms, medications, knives, ropes, or other toxic substances in the home or area as quickly as possible (via disposal or secure storage).
Maintain a connection - keep in touch and continue to follow up and check in.
Conversations like these can be difficult - always remember to take care of yourself. Practicing self care or utilizing grounding tips can be great protective tools to take care of yourself when caring for others.
Self care practices can include time spent with loved ones, prayer/spirituality practices, exercise, quality rest, and more.
There are certain life experiences that increase the likelihood that an individual may make the decision to harm themselves. Commonly referred to as risk factors, these can occur at the individual level or within an individual's relationships, community, or greater society.
Conversely, protective factors are personal traits, skills, or experiences that help promote personal resilience and social connection, both of which encourage someone to seek help when in need or to consider alternate methods to self-harm. Like risk factors, protective factors can occur at the individual level or exist within personal relationships, family dynamics, or community settings.
Access to lethal means (firearms, stockpiled medications, other weapons)
Stigma towards help-seeking behaviors
Difficulty accessing physical or mental health care
Social isolation or feelings of hopelessness
Pattern of aggressive, impulsive, or antisocial behavior
Academic or employment-related troubles/failure
Current or past exposure to violence such as direct victimization, witnessing violence or other secondhand experiences, bullying, abuse, etc.
History of suicide attempts or family/peer history
Alcohol and drug abuse
Bereavement and grieving
🗹 Protective Factors
Social connectedness and social support at home, school, or in the greater community
Coping, emotion regulation, problem solving and conflict resolution skills
Restricted access to lethal means (firearms, stockpiled medications, other weapons)
Normalizing mental health as an important component of overall health and wellbeing
Access to effective clinical interventions and mental health supports (therapeutic, behavioral, and medical)
Positive beliefs about the future, ability to cope, and general life skills
Trusted relationships with healthcare providers and other community resources
Cultural and spiritual beliefs and traditions
Exposure to responsible (non-glamourized) media reporting on suicide
Suicide prevention involves us all - families, teachers, pastors, colleagues, teammates, neighbors, and so many more. It requires a shared goal of looking out for each other and doing what we can to educate ourselves in case we or someone we love may be in need.
Effective prevention also prioritizes opportunities to teach, uplift, and optimize physical, emotional, and mental well-being for all. This begins with normalizing conversations about mental health and wellbeing and ending stigma towards seeking help from others. It also includes prioritizing access to and distribution of the community resources that help meet basic needs and help achieve health equity.
Prevention strategies for individuals, families, communities, and institutions include:
Strengthening community resources and economic supports available to secure food, housing, employment, and other basic needs.
Prioritizing opportunities to build social cohesion, foster belonging, and promote connection for people of all ages and backgrounds.
Increasing access to well-being and mental health preventative services across the lifespan while also including questions about mental health and wellbeing in health histories during physical health services.
Educating others about safe storage of lethal means and reduce access in the home.
Normalizing conversations in person and on social media about warning signs, coping skills, and places to find help when in need in schools, at home, and in community organizations.
Utilizing and highlighting strengths-based programs that promote opportunities to build and strengthen protective factors and reduce risk factors.
Providing free training opportunities about suicide crisis intervention and risk identification to community members.
Following best practices and including community resources whenever there is media coverage about death or other traumatic events.
For these strategies to be implemented, there is a need for multiple sectors to work together:
The following resources are available to learn more about suicide and self-harm. Please read, use, and share them with others at home, at school, in the workplace, and in your community.
Public Health has made reasonable efforts to provide accurate translation. However, no computerized translation is perfect and is not intended to replace traditional translation methods. If questions arise concerning the accuracy of the information, please refer to the English edition of the website, which is the official version.