SAMHSA’s Suicide Prevention Efforts

Protecting the behavioral health and safety of Americans is central to everything we do here at SAMHSA. Preventing the tragic loss of life from suicide is a unique challenge. We have learned that it takes a coordinated effort at all levels, from government to organizations to local communities – down to the individual level.  Just being a caring friend or neighbor can go a long way in preventing others from thoughts of suicide.

This week, September 10-16, is National Suicide Prevention Week. During this week, we are highlighting the many ways that SAMHSA supports the national efforts to prevent suicide every day, using a variety of tools, resources, and partnerships.

  • Collaboration – SAMHSA works with partners in the public and private sectors to support a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention. We work with the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention and chair the Federal Working Group on Suicide to shape national policy and strategies. For National Suicide Prevention Week, we are collaborating with many partners to promote suicide prevention awareness through social media events and messages, using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.
  • Care – While word of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline continues to spread, most people are not aware that this life-saving resource is funded and managed by SAMHSA. This year, more than 1.5 million people have called the Lifeline, which is a 24-hour, toll-free confidential hotline. The Lifeline connects callers to one of over 160 crisis centers across the country. Callers who utilized the Lifeline while in crisis have shared that they felt less suicidal and more safe after talking to a Lifeline counselor.
  • Community – In addition to our nationwide efforts, SAMHSA grants help states, communities, and health care systems prevent suicide among youth and adults based on the latest scientific evidence. This week, SAMHSA distributed $14.5 million in new grants for suicide prevention, under the Zero Suicide program and the Cooperative Agreements to Implement the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention. SAMHSA’s grant programs work. Evaluation of SAMHSA’s Garret Lee Smith Youth Suicide Prevention grants showed that counties implementing grant-funded activities had fewer youth suicide deaths and attempts than other counties.
  • Resources – SAMHSA’s Suicide Prevention Resource Center and its Tribal Technical Assistance Center provide technical assistance to states, tribes, colleges and other organizations. We also work with tribes and tribal organizations through our Native Connections and Campus grants. SAMHSA develops products and resources such as the High School Suicide Prevention Toolkit, the Lifeline’s Warning Signs cards and the SuicideSafe® mobile app, which provides assistance to providers in assessing suicide risk and in locating resources.

One thing is clear: collectively, these efforts to collaborate, provide care, support communities and provide resources save lives every single day.  And yet there is still more work to do. Together with local, state, federal and tribal partners, SAMHSA works every day to achieve the goal of zero suicide nationwide.

Help is just a phone call away.  If you are thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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Every American Has a Part to Play in Suicide Prevention

It is one thing to hear in the abstract that America suffers from a stubbornly high rate of suicide and suicide attempts. But when it hits home—as it did for me years ago when a young neighbor, struggling with serious mental illness, died from suicide—we realize we have to ask some tough questions.

What could we possibly do to stop someone from taking his or her life? What are we failing to do for our neighbors and family members struggling with substance abuse or serious mental illness? What can we do to address the fact that this problem is especially acute among those whom we owe the most, our veterans? How can we fail to see when a loved one or neighbor is struggling?

The tragedy of suicide demands a proactive and coordinated response, from both the public sector and local communities and civil society. Particularly during National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in September and National Suicide Prevention Awareness Week (September 11 through 17), we need to remind ourselves that working together with compassion and commitment, we can make a difference and reduce the numbers of our veterans, youth, older adults, and others dying by suicide.

The statistics on this problem are disturbing:

  • Overall, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for Americans.
  • In 2015, nearly 44,200 deaths were due to suicide, meaning our country suffers about one suicide every 12 minutes.
  • One in 20 Americans with schizophrenia—one of the serious mental illnesses we have made a priority at HHS—die by suicide.
  • Americans with mood disorders like depression or bipolar disorder die by suicide at a rate 25 times the general population.
  • Each day, according to the VA, 20 veterans die of suicide.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 605,000 U.S. residents died by suicide from 1999 to 2015.

This week, HHS is distributing $14.5 million in new grants for suicide prevention, under the Zero Suicide program and Cooperative Agreements to Implement the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention. These grants will help states, tribes, and health systems run suicide prevention programs for Americans 25 years of age and older.

Each of us have an individual role to play in this fight. There is evidence that bolstering our personal and community interconnectedness can make a significant difference. According to the Suicide Prevention Resource CenterExternal Web Site Policy,  increasing the connections among individuals, family, community and social institutions can be a major protective factor for preventing suicide.

ResearchExternal Web Site Policy  shows that people who are having thoughts of suicide feel relief when someone asks about them in a caring way. Studies also indicate that helping a person at risk connect to a support system can reduce feelings of hopelessness and give them the people and resources to reach out to for help, whether it’s a hotline, family, friends, clergy, therapists, or others.

With our public and private partners in the National Action Alliance for Suicide PreventionExternal Web Site Policy, known as the Action Alliance, we are pursuing a public health approach that considers long-term prevention strategies, as well as crisis responses, while targeting specific vulnerable populations that are at higher risk. HHS’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) funds the Suicide Prevention Resource CenterExternal Web Site Policy  and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Here are some of the available resources for suicide prevention produced through those partnerships and others:

  • The Suicide Prevention Resource CenterExternal Web Site Policy  provides staffing and other support to the Action Alliance and for Zero SuicideExternal Web Site Policy, an initiative based on the belief that suicide deaths for individuals receiving the right care are preventable.
  • If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or you think is at risk of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), a 24-hour toll-free confidential hotline. This hotline has helped more than 6 million since its inception in 2005, routing calls within its network of more than 160 crisis centers. The Lifeline’s websiteExternal Web Site Policy has important information about how to help people in crisis.
  • Thanks to collaboration between SAMHSA and the Department of Veterans Affairs, military service members, veterans, and their families can call the Lifeline number, press “1” at the prompt and be connected to VA counselors.
  • If you’re involved in suicide prevention programming in your community, check out CDC’s Preventing Suicide: a Technical Package of Policies, Programs, and Practices – PDF.

Being a caring friend, family member, and neighbor can go a long way in preventing our fellow Americans from getting to the point of suicidal thoughts.

Back in May when we honored a couple prominent Olympic athletes for their work in raising awareness about mental health issues, I said: Never be afraid to ask, “Are you alright?  Is everything OK?  How are you doing?”

Sometimes, that’s all it takes to save a life.

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The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) announced that the latest Monitoring the Future (MTF) national survey results of drug use among full-time college students and their non-college peers are now available online, highlighting that daily marijuana use is at the highest level since the early 1980s for this age group.

Below are the highlights from the 2016 MTF survey results on drug use among college students compared to their peers not attending college (ages 19-22).

  • Daily marijuana use is at the highest level since the early 1980s for this age group (7.8%), reaching the highest level seen for non-college youth (12.8%) and among the highest for full-time college students (4.9%).
  • Non-college peers appear to be drinking less alcohol than their college counterparts with respect to binge drinking (28.7% vs. 32.4%) and intoxication (30.4% vs 40.8%). Binge drinking is defined as five or more drinks in a row in the past two weeks and intoxication is defined as having been drunk in the last month.
  • Past year amphetamine use without medical supervision appears to be higher in college students than their non-college peers. Ritalin use is 2.4% vs. 1.6% and Adderall use is 9.9% vs. 6.2%, respectively.
  • Past year hookah use appears to be lower in college students and their non-college peers (16.9% and 19.8%) and is trending down in college students (27.9% in 2011 vs. 16.9% in 2016).
  • For both cigarettes and e-vaporizers*, past month use for college students and their non-college peers went down.

It is important to note that the Food and Drug Administration began regulating e-cigarettes and hookahs in August 2016, which could have affected marketplace availability. *E-vaporizers may include nicotine, other drugs or no drug at all (i.e., flavoring only).

Additional data and infographic can be found on NIDA’s College-Age & Young Adults webpage, which also includes links to statistics and trends, an updated list of more than 400 college programs in addiction science, and other relevant materials, including a college-age specific toolkit for those holding events during National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week® early next year.

For more information, go to NIDA’s College-Age & Young Adults webpage.

For more information, contact the NIDA press office at or 301-443-6245. Follow NIDA on Twitter. and Facebook.

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