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I’m really excited to be back here in Washington and working as a counselor here on South Hill! I’ve spent too much time here to call it anything but home, and now I’m here to invest in the community and help out.

Given recent news of Robin Williams’ suicide, I thought I would talk a bit about suicide and the power of secrets.

The terrible and wonderful thing about a celebrity suicide is that everyone hears about it. Otherwise, most suicides are not spoken of, because they are exceptionally hurtful to family and friends and a source of a great deal of shame for survivors.

So let’s talk about suicide. What should you know about it, and how can we reduce the number of people who kill themselves? Each year approximately 38,000 people (105 each day) kill themselves in the United States, which is more than the number of homicides or the number who die in car accidents.   


In 2009 and 2010 it was the tenth leading cause of death for people, age 10 and up. This is a significant statistic, but when we look at other age groups, the prognosis becomes more dire. Among ages 15-24 it is the second leading cause of death, and white men 85 and older have the highest suicide rate than any other age and ethnic group.


Men are more likely to use more lethal forms of suicide (i.e. guns and hanging) and succeed more often than women. On the other hand, women are more likely to attempt more frequently and use various forms of poisoning.

Risk Factors

-Mental illness: depression, anxiety, and personality disorder

-Family history of mental illness and suicide

-Recent friend, relative, or celebrity suicide

-Prior suicide attempts

-Prior self-harming behaviors

-Chemical abuse: alcohol or medication

-Changes in mood and/or behavior

-Prior impulsivity

-Prior violence

-Thoughts of suicide

-Practicing or researching suicide

-Access to guns, chemicals, high places, or any other means

-Any real or anticipated negative life event: shame, guilt, job loss, divorce, death of a loved one, extended sickness

What to do

Most people who die by suicide have a mental illness and/or a substance use disorder, and most of these individuals do not seek mental health services, so early detection and treatment are extremely important.

The good news is that research has shown that psychotherapy can effectively reduce suicide risk, by treating mental disorders and teaching folks how to better cope with life. Medication can also be helpful, especially with individuals struggling with depressed symptoms.

Bottom line, if you are worried about someone and think that they may have had thoughts of killing themselves, be direct with them. Ask the question: “Others in your circumstance have had thoughts of suicide, have you?” Don’t act shocked, or angry; instead just listen. You might be their last chance, a turning point. Don’t tell them that you know how they feel, because you probably don’t. The reason so many people complete suicide is because, for them, it makes total and complete sense. It is the only solution and ending to their misery and pain. So get them help. Encourage them to get to a safe place with professionals that can help them. Call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to anyone. All calls are confidential. In an emergency, call 911, or get them to the emergency room. The most important thing to not do is keep their secret! Do not promise them to remain silent! Suicide truly loses a significant amount of power when others know about it.

For more info here are some great resources:

AuthorDr. Jay