Updated: Nov. 30, 2023

Preventing Suicide

Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States. In 2017, more than 47,173 suicides occurred in the U.S. On average, the annual U.S. suicide rate increased 24% between 1999 and 2014. While suicide affects people of all ages, it is the second leading cause of death among people 25–34 years old. High rates of suicide also exist for those who are middle-aged and elderly. Although males are nearly four times as likely to take their own lives as females, women attempt suicide two to three times as often as men.

A correlation exists between suicide, depression, and other mental health disorders, including alcohol and drug abuse. Suicide victims do not necessarily want to die. Instead, they want relief from their intense psychological pain. They often feel hopeless with no solution in sight.

While suicidal ideation is not at all uncommon, it is a warning sign that pursuing treatment and support has become necessary. When an individual develops an intention to commit suicide; begins planning their suicide; or secures the means to do so, the risk level escalates most dramatically. Adding impulsive behaviors to this mix through alcohol or drug use, risk taking, or making sudden dramatic decisions makes follow-through with a suicide attempt more likely. Fortunately, help is available for those at risk of suicide.

WSBA partners with Forefront Suicide Prevention at the University of Washington to offer research-driven best practices for those struggling with suicidal thoughts. WSBA's webinar "Suicide Awareness and Referral Training for Legal Professionals" (January 2019) is available to download for CLE credit.

It is important to know that asking a person about suicide does not make it more likely. In fact, it is the first step. Supporting someone struggling with suicidal thinking requires listening thoughtfully to their concerns, asking them about suicide, being consistent in following up with them, and helping them separate from lethal means of self-harm. For best practices, please read this one page guide. The person providing support is likely to feel pressure and confusion over how to proceed. A caregiver can also utilize the support provided at the numbers on the right of this page.