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San Diego County Expands Suicide Prevention Efforts

Stan Collins, a San Diego County suicide prevention specialist, stands
with ...

Photo by Susan Murphy

Above: Stan Collins, a San Diego County suicide prevention specialist, stands with a group of health experts and leaders to announce an updated plan to prevent people from taking their lives, at the San Diego County Administration Center, May 30, 2018.

The San Diego County Suicide Prevention Council Wednesday announced new efforts to prevent people from taking their lives.

Following a series of community focus groups and online surveys, the council revised its Suicide Prevention Action Plan to include nine strategies on suicide mitigation.

The new plan details universal interventions targeting the public; selective interventions focused on groups with high suicide risk, including older men, veterans, people with mental or substance abuse disorders as well as LGBTQ individuals; and indicated interventions for those at urgent risk of suicide.

Strategies include raising awareness, improving access to behavioral health services, improving connectedness between friends and families, encouraging a healthy sense of self and teaching skills to cope with change.

"Our goal is to create a community where everyone recognizes that they have a role to play in suicide prevention," said Alfredo Aguirre, director of county Behavioral Health Services. "Each of us should learn the warning signs of people considering ending their lives and encourage them to seek professional help."

"The more we can take the impulsivity and create speed bumps between someone’s thoughts of suicide and the means, they are far less likely to make a suicide attempt," Aguirre said.

County Health Behavioral Health Services is planning to implement a gun safety education campaign with gun shop owners to raise awareness of suicide prevention strategies among fire arm owners and their family members.

"With guns as the predominant method of suicide in San Diego County, and with middle aged men being disproportionately effected by suicide, we need to work together to help people become safer when they are dealing with thoughts of suicide," Aguirre said.

Suicide is the leading cause of death in the county, according to officials. In 2016, 431 county residents committed suicide.

San Diego County was the first in California to develop a countywide suicide prevention plan, according to local officials.

The council has taught nearly 15,000 people how to approach someone who might be contemplating suicide through its "Question, Persuade, Refer" training program, while more than 2,000 first responders have been trained in suicide prevention using a special council curriculum. Training helps law enforcement officers and emergency medical personnel provide appropriate and empathic care to those in distress.

Health experts say the key to preventing suicide is to be vigilant for signs of distress and to intervene early. A county-funded crisis hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 888-724-7240.

Recognizing Symptoms Of Mental Illness

If you or someone you know is experiencing one or more of the symptoms below for more than two weeks, consider getting more information and help:

  • Confused thinking
  • Long-lasting sadness or irritability
  • Extreme highs and lows in mood
  • Excessive fear, worry or anxiety
  • Social withdrawal
  • Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Strong feelings of anger
  • Delusions or hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that others do not)
  • Increasing inability to cope with daily problems and activities
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Denial of obvious problems
  • Many unexplained physical problems
  • Abuse of drugs and/or alcohol

Crisis Hotline: 888-724-7240.

Source: San Diego County Health and Human Services

Following a series of community focus groups and online surveys, the council revised its Suicide Prevention Action Plan to include nine strategies on suicide mitigation.

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