Spotlight: Suicide Prevention. A Q&A with Crisis Services

Aug 28, 2018

In 2017, Crisis Services of Erie County answered 77,919 crisis calls

September 9-15 is National Suicide Prevention Week and in an effort to shed light on this stigmatized topic the Erie County Anti-Stigma Coalition shines a spotlight on member organization Crisis Services.

Q: What is the rate of completed and attempted suicides in our region?

Last year, 113 residents of Erie County died by suicide, per the Erie County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Good data on number of attempts locally are not available, but we do know that nationally for every death by suicide, the estimate is that there are 25 attempts. That would suggest close to 2,825 attempts in this County.

Q: Is there a certain demographic or age range that is most susceptible to suicide?

The rate of suicide is highest in Caucasian men in the middle years. Erie County has seen a 30% increase in the mortality rate for death by suicide from 2013 to 2017. Men accounted for a 35% increase during that same time period. In 2017, 78% of those who died by suicide in Erie County were men. 68% of the suicides were in the age group 30-59. This is a group that is in its most productive years, working, raising families, forming and working on relationships. The loss is tragic.

Q: Do suicide risk factors vary across different age or demographic groups?

Risk factors include the following (Source AFSP.Org)

Health Factors

  • Mental health conditions
    • Depression
    • Substance use problems
    • Bipolar disorder
    • Schizophrenia
    • Personality traits of aggression, mood changes and poor relationships
    • Conduct disorder
    • Anxiety disorders
  • Serious physical health conditions including pain
  • Traumatic brain injury

Environmental Factors

  • Access to lethal means including firearms and drugs
  • Prolonged stress, such as harassment, bullying, relationship problems or unemployment
  • Stressful life events, like rejection, divorce, financial crisis, other life transitions or loss
  • Exposure to another person’s suicide, or to graphic or sensationalized accounts of suicide

Historical Factors

  • Previous suicide attempts
  • Family history of suicide
  • Childhood abuse, neglect or trauma

Q: What are the myths surrounding suicide?

From the QPR Institute:

  • MYTH: No one can stop a suicide, it is inevitable
  • FACT: If people in a crisis get the help they need, they will probably never be suicidal again.
  • MYTH: Confronting a person about suicide will only make them angry and increase the risk of suicide.
  • FACT: Asking someone directly about suicidal intent lowers anxiety, opens up communication and lowers the risk of an impulsive act
  • MYTH: Only experts can prevent suicide.
  • FACT: Suicide prevention is everybody’s business, and anyone can help prevent the tragedy of suicide.
  • MYTH: Suicidal people keep their plans to themselves.
  • FACT: Most suicidal people communicate their intent sometime during the week preceding their attempt.
  • MYTH: Those who talk about suicide don’t do it.
  • FACT: People who talk about suicide may try, or even complete an act of self-destruction.
  • MYTH: Once a person decides to complete suicide, there is nothing anyone can do to stop them.
  • FACT: Suicide is the most preventable kind of death, and almost any positive action may save a life.

Q: How does stigma affect suicide / what is the role of stigma when dealing with suicide?

Stigma affects suicide in several ways. People who recognize they need help are afraid to seek what could be life-saving treatment, because they fear humiliation, loss of social status and perhaps employment security. This may be a driving feature in males in the middle years who are focused on career and family and have been convinced that accepting help for a mental illness is less than “manly.”

Second, when families experience a death by suicide, they may be hesitant to talk openly about it because of the stigma associated with suicide, to this day. They then lose the opportunity for the social support they so desperately need as they handle their grief.

Additional Facts About Suicide in the US

  • 45,000 Americans died by suicide last year.
  • The annual age-adjusted suicide rate is 42 per 100,000 individuals.
  • Men die by suicide 53x more often than women, although women attempt more frequently.
  • On average, there are 123 suicides per day.
  • White males accounted for 7 of 10 suicides in 2016.
  • Firearms account for 51% of all suicides in 2016.
  • The rate of suicide is highest in middle age—white men in particular.

Warning Signs that Someone may be thinking about Suicide:


If a person talks about:

  • Killing themselves
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Having no reason to live
  • Being a burden to others
  • Feeling trapped
  • Unbearable pain


Behaviors that may signal risk, especially if related to a painful event, loss or change:

  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Looking for a way to end their lives, such as searching online for methods
  • Withdrawing from activities
  • Isolating from family and friends
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Aggression
  • Fatigue


People who are considering suicide often display one or more of the following moods:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of interest
  • Irritability
  • Humiliation/Shame
  • Agitation/Anger
  • Relief/Sudden Improvement


Q: What can each of us do in our daily lives to help those who may be contemplating suicide?

We need to tackle this problem with a community response. We all should be aware of risk factors and warning signs of imminent suicide. If someone we know seems to be struggling, we can express our concern in a caring, respectful thoughtful way and LISTEN to the person in a non-judgmental fashion. Do not interrupt, let the person talk and just listen. Encourage them to get the help they may so desperately need and then help them get to that resource. If the person seems to be imminently contemplating suicide, do not leave them alone.

If you have a friend or a loved one that has attempted suicide, continue to check in with them. Due to various mental health conditions, suicide ideation is a symptom of their illness. It is critical to keep the conversation going with them and do regular check ins with them. We also encourage creating a safety plan so when they are in crisis they have a plan written out to turn to, help them focus and connect with those that are a support and help for them when they are struggling.

Crisis Services is Erie County’s Suicide Prevention, Intervention and Post-vention organization. We are accredited by the American Association of Suicidology and leading experts in our area. We encourage anyone who is thinking of suicide or worried about someone to call and talk with our hotline counselors 24 hours a day by calling 834-3131.Are hotline counselors can provide support, assessment, intervention and safety planning. If the call is a high risk situation and needs immediate response, we also have crisis response services through our Mobile Outreach Program. Staff provide response in the community to assess the safety and well-being of individuals in mental health crisis. Our goal is to divert them from higher levels of care and work to re-establish protective factors, support and connection to the behavioral health system.

Other resources outside of Erie County include the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We are the network center for the NSPL line and help to answer these calls for Western New York.

1-800-273-TALK (8533)

You can also Text “GOT5” to Crisis Text Line 741-741. GOT5 was established by Governor Cuomo for NYS residents to get help.

Crisis Services oversees the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Erie County. This is a group of stakeholders working towards addressing suicide in our community. The Coalition offers awareness event opportunities and various training. We encourage people to be trained in suicide prevention awareness and learn to become comfortable asking “Are you thinking of suicide or Are you thinking of killing yourself?”. We need to be comfortable with the uncomfortable because this one question could help save a life. We always encourage people that if they are concerned for someone ask them how they are doing. People who are struggling can’t be expected to reach out. We need to reach in and ask how they are doing. This support can help them find hope in living.

Q: Does Crisis Services provide programs for suicide survivors?

Crisis Services has a Trauma Response Program for suicide survivors. After a loss, the trauma experienced can be overwhelming and support and guidance is important. We have specialty trained counselors to respond and provide critical incident stress debriefing for individuals, families, or groups after a loss. This support helps to normalize the impacts of trauma and signs to pay attention for their own safety and well-being after a traumatic experience. This service can be accessed by calling our 24 hour hotline 834-3131.

Suicide Prevention and Crisis Service, Inc. began operation in November of 1968 after two years of strategic planning by the Mental Health Association, the Psychological Association of WNY, the Community Welfare Council, and the Erie County Department of Mental Health. It was develops than currently available by offering a 24/7 response.

The service was designed to fill the community’s need for an innovative unit that would explore new methods of treating and assisting people in emotional crisis through a variety of therapeutic services. It was to also provide training and educational programs in crisis intervention and have a comprehensive research component supporting the whole service. Crisis Services exists to fill the same needs today, but has adapted service delivery with respect to social needs and funding.

Crisis Services of Erie County is the most comprehensive crisis center in upstate New York. Crisis Services fulfills community needs through the following program services:

  • 24 Hour Hotline – Crisis Counseling Program
  • Emergency Mobile Outreach Services
  • Trauma Response Services
  • The Advocate Program – Rape, Domestic Violence, Family Violence and Elder Abuse
  • Community Education and Training
  • Police/Mental Health Coordination Project

24 Hour Hotline716-834-3131

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (toll-free) at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)