By: Victoria St Louis

September is National Suicide Prevention Month and USM Counseling Services would like to take a moment to connect. Depression and suicidal thoughts can make people feel alone, and those feelings can be amplified by the realities we all face this year. Meeting people where they are, or opening yourself up in the midst of pain, may be the only way to overcome the feeling of loneliness.

Suicide is often preventable, and, most importantly, talking about suicide DOES NOT cause it. Almost all individuals who die by suicide talk about it with at least one other person, yet 80% of those who commit suicide are not receiving counseling or professional help. We must take it seriously every time. Your willingness to ask, listen and connect someone you know to help can rekindle hope and save a life.

Some signs that someone is at a higher risk of suicide that you might observe in yourself or others you know:

  • Sad or depressed mood
  • Changes in normal behavior, like difficulty sleeping or eating
  • Losing interest in things one used to care about
  • Isolating oneself and withdrawing from others, or giving away important belongings
  • Statements about being hopeless, worthless, or a burden
  • Statements like, “I wish I were dead” or “I wish I weren’t here”
  • Change in substance use (increase or risky use)

Five Action Steps for Helping Someone in Emotional Pain

If you or someone you know is demonstrating any of the symptoms above, it’s time to talk about it. Evidence shows a simple, non-threatening, yet direct approach is probably best.

Below are five ways the National Institute of Mental Health suggests helping someone find their way out of the risk of suicidal thoughts and actions. If you yourself are struggling with this, you need to talk with a trusted person or call one of the resources listed below.

  1. Ask. “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” Studies show that asking at-risk individuals if they’re suicidal doesn’t increase suicidal thoughts. It simply assesses the risk.
  2. Keep them safe. Reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal items or places that put them at risk is an important part of suicide prevention. Ask the at-risk person if they have a plan, and remove or disable the lethal means.
  3. Be there. Listen carefully and learn what the individual is thinking and feeling. Findings suggest that acknowledging and talking about suicide may, in fact, reduce suicidal thoughts.
  4. Help them connect. A number of resources are below. Help them expand their support system by connecting them to a trusted family member, friend, medical doctor, counselor, etc.
  5. Stay connected. Studies show that suicide deaths go down when someone follows up with the at-risk person.

If you are struggling, or you are concerned about someone you know, please call 

USM Counseling Services (207-780-4050) to speak with a staff person that can help. USM Counseling Services are available Monday through Friday from 8:30AM-4:30PM.

All of the following statewide and national resources are also available 24/7:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Live Chat and access resources via

Call the Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)

Text: send TALK to 741741

The Trevor Project (LGBTQ+ Suicide & Crisis Services)

Live Chat and access resources via

Call: 1-866-488-7386

Text: 678-678

Cumberland County Crisis Unit (Mobile Crisis)

Call: 207-774-HELP (207-774-4357)

State of Maine Crisis Line

Call: 1-888-568-1112

NAMI Maine Warm Line (non-crisis peer support)

Call: 1-866-771-9276

If you are a faculty member, staff person or leader of a student group, USM Counseling Services also provides active bystander training for suicide prevention. Please contact Victoria St Louis, ([email protected]), for more information or to schedule.


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