Mental Health, Video

Suicide Prevention Programs Save Lives

Lend a helping hand in suicide prevention

When people in our community feel depressed, hopeless, or lonely, Santa Clara County’s trained counselors and staff are here to help in preventing suicide.

Suicide accounts for 22% of deaths caused by injury in Santa Clara County.  But feeling protected by family, friends, and community can be a major protection against such outcomes.

“Suicide is a complex issue, and there is no single explanation as to why someone dies by suicide,” says Zinat Mohammed, a suicide prevention associate with the County’s Behavioral Health Department.  “However, we do know that the vast majority of people that attempt suicide struggle with mental health challenges or trauma, such as depression, substance use, or bullying.”

Engaged with the community

It’s important to remember: suicide is preventable.

“At the Behavioral Health Services Suicide Prevention Program, we’re engaged with the community on a number of prevention efforts,” asserts Mego Lien, another suicide prevention associate.  “For example, our program staffs and trains volunteers who run our suicide and crisis hotline, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We offer a host of trainings to equip people with the skills that they need to really support someone who’s in crisis, and we run public education campaigns to encourage people to seek help for their mental health challenges and to encourage further action to prevent suicide.”

Higher rates in some groups

Sadly, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among those 10-24 years of age.

Another critical group is middle-aged men, according to Mohammed.  “We’re actually seeing higher rates of suicide among men ages 45 and up in this county. Because of the stigma associated with mental illness and suicide, it can often be difficult for people to reach out and seek help when they really need it.”

In 2016, the County ran a 10-month radio campaign encouraging men to call the County crisis hotline and access support services.  “The campaign was extremely successful, with calls from males nearly doubling during the months of the campaign,” says Mohammed.

County’s Crisis Hotline

By offering immediate counseling to everyone who may need it, the County’s crisis hotline provides invaluable support at critical times and connects individuals to the services they need.  Also, by having a conversation, providing support, and directing help to those in need, the hotline helps prevent suicides —  and saves lives.

Community worker Chuck Surface, who has spent decades on that hotline recalls, “I was describing to a high school friend at a reunion what a typical night at work is like, and after I described what we do, he said, ‘Well, you’re kind of like a psychological EMT.’  Think about it: an EMT pulls up to an accident or somebody’s home and they kind of get somebody in shape for the moment so they can get that person to an emergency room or whatever they need for long-term care. We provide the same function, whether that person is suicidal or whether they’re just facing some sort of crisis in life they want to sort out.”

“At the Suicide and Crisis Hotline, we save lives every day,” says Lan Nguyen, Program Manager for the Suicide and Crisis Hotline.  “We talk to an average of 2,000 callers a month. People call us because they are depressed, because they are hopeless, because they are lonely. We help people who are in a crisis situation — not only in crisis, but on the verge of killing themselves. We help them de-escalate the crisis situation.”

For more information

We can all help to reduce the stigma around mental health issues and prevent suicides. Visit Santa Clara County Behavioral Health, Sucide Prevention  to learn more or to find out how you can attend a training session or volunteer for the Suicide and Crisis Hotline. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the hotline at 1-855-278-4204. The hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


September 29, 2017

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September 2017
Santa Clara County