Suicide Prevention: Risks and Interventions

Dedicated to Jacqueline Joy Butler

Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in the world for those aged 15-24 years. Nearly 800,000 people die by suicide in the world each year, which is roughly one death every 40 seconds.”

The reasons for suicide as determined by notes appear to be the same for all ages. That said, it appears that depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide and when left untreated is also a causal factor of completed

When my wife’s 17-year old niece, Jacqueline, committed suicide, my wife, Jeanine Goodstein, went on a mission to try to understand why. She interviewed her niece’s friends and schoolmates. She manned a suicide prevention hotline. She interviewed friends and family of other suicide victims. She read the notes and writings from as many victims as she could find — including her niece. She looked for messages. She interviewed young people in 12-step groups. This mission took years. She estimates that she spoke with more than 500 people and read volumes of notes and writings from suicide victims.

Her report to me is that young people who complete suicide do it for many reasons; and, almost every one of them included one common theme — feeling like they were not being seen, heard, or understood and therefore alone with their problem(s) with no where to go for help. All too often, suicide at these ages appears to be to “see” how people would be affected if they killed themselves. It does not make sense, however, it is a form of revenge. They almost all showed signs of depression. There is always a fair amount of anger, self-loathing, and/or self-hate.

Other very common themes my wife uncovered were:

  • feelings of hopelessness
  • feeling trapped
  • feeling unbearable pain – mental, emotional, and/or physical
  • feeling like their existence caused others pain and suffering
  • feeling like things should be different
  • feeling like they were not good enough to be loved or cared for
  • feeling like there is no reason to live
  • feeling like life is boring, bad, painful or just too hard
  • feeling like it is time to just give up

Risks and Interventions

Now that you have a better understanding of what victims report firsthand, let’s get clear on what you can look out for and what you can do for the people you know and love. Any significant changes in behavior is the first indicator. This is particularly important if the behaviors shift to one of the symptoms in the themes listed above. That said, the number one intervention is communication. When communicating, find a safe and comfortable place to have the conversation. Lean toward the person, yet also offer space by giving complete respect, understanding, and compassion. You likely won’t resolve anything by being insistent and potentially a nuisance.

It’s critically important to remain connected by communicating – gently, lovingly, and consistently – while you do your best to implement a solution. Let the person know that you are doing your best to understand. Our position of “seeking to understand” is one of the most important things you can do. Consistently communicating to the person that you appreciate him or her, and the struggle he or she is going through is another potentially life-saving intervention. In your communications, it is important to find ways to underscore that life is — and can become something — worth living.

Carefully selecting your words when communicating can be extremely helpful as well. For example, you may want to start with “I have noticed…” Since many of us have thoughts about death and suicide, speaking from personal experience and expounding upon the terrifying feeling can allow the person to relate. Then move into the chapter of the story where you emphasize all of the reasons you are relieved you did not go through with it.

Communicating that life lasts many years and has many “seasons” is a sincere and profound truth.

The next important action is to follow up. Many people contemplating suicide have been through lots of letdowns. I often hear “Hope is a bad thing.” Help prove this to be untrue. Keep checking in and letting the person know that you care.

Knowing the warning signs is particularly difficult task because many people contemplating suicide do not talk about it, and may very well not exhibit any warning signs.

That said, there are people that do show signs and often ask for help. Warning signs include any major changes in behavior as already mentioned. Other signs include any prolonged mental illness, medical illness, depression, sadness, anger, apathy, drug use or abuse, changes in medication use without first consulting with a professional, or extreme levels of anxiety and stress. It’s worth highlighting the perhaps all-too-obvious, it is a warning sign if someone is talking nonstop about death, dying, wanting to be dead, feeling hopeless, that you, family members, or the world would be better off without them, or is saying “goodbye”.

One final thought to consider, most individual’s contemplating suicide may not necessarily want to end their life, they may simply want to end the current version of their journey. Let us remind them that there is, without question, another life.

Know your resources.

We’ve listed a few here:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800) 273-TALK (8255), Spanish (888) 628-9454
  • Crisis Text Line – Text “HOME” to 741-741
  • Emergency – 911
  • Suicide Prevention Resource Center – 
  • National Institutes of Health – 
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – 


Through the Pathwaves NeuroEmpowerment™ program, we use a proprietary form of integrative neurofeedback – what we call Neurofeedforward™ – to influence the nervous system, and recondition your responses in order to address the negative loops that lead to suicidal tendencies. Our method has been able to effectively help more than 95% of our clients change how they feel and function, so they can live happier and healthier lives.

Those of us at Pathwaves will tell you “get them in to see us as we are one of the best resources available.” Connect with us at or call (305) 858-6616.

To help those who cannot afford the services of Pathwaves, The Pathwaves Foundation may also be able to help. Please call (305) 858-6616 for more information.

If you’d like to learn how you can accelerate change through our methodology, we are here to help. Schedule a free 30-minute consultation today.

G. Cole
Founder, Pathwaves

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