Newsroom > DHHS News Release

For Immediate Release
September 20, 2017

Julie Naughton, Public Information Officer, Communications and Legislative Services, (office) 402-471-1695 or (cell) 402-405-7202, 

DHHS: One Suicide is Too Many

LINCOLN— Behavioral health disorders are often seen by the general public as something to “just get over,” or “control.” Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is aiming to bust through that stigma year-round, especially during September, which is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

Each year more than 41,000 individuals die by suicide, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and research has found that about 90 percent of individuals who die by suicide experience mental illness. In Nebraska, 175 men and 46 women completed suicide in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available.

“September is a time to share resources and stories on this stigmatized topic,” said Sheri Dawson, director of the Division of Behavioral Health at DHHS. “Our goal is to reach out to those affected by suicide, raise awareness and connect individuals with suicidal ideation to treatment services. We also want to make sure individuals, friends and families have access to the resources they need to discuss suicide prevention.”

These prevention resources include Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) which has trained 2,801 Nebraskans in the past two years, and four active Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors (LOSS) teams, comprised of survivors and mental health professionals who provide support for those who have had a loved one complete a suicide.

“Suicide is something that I’ve learned doesn’t discriminate and it’s a club you don’t ever sign up for,” said Amy Carnahan, a Nebraskan with a relative who completed suicide.  “It’s been over two years since my cousin Kyle died by suicide, and in that time I’ve thrown myself into prevention work.  We all have to strive to do better in having those conversations about tough subjects like suicide. We have to come together as one to end the sigma surrounding mental health. If you see someone hurting, reach out. You could be the one thing that makes a difference in that person’s life.”

A number of things may put a person at risk of suicide, including:

  • A family history of suicide.
  • Substance abuse. Drugs and alcohol can result in mental highs and lows that exacerbate suicidal thoughts.
  • Intoxication. More than one in three people who die from suicide are under the influence of alcohol.
  • Access to firearms.
  • A serious or chronic medical illness.
  • Gender. Although more women than men attempt suicide, men are four times more likely to die by suicide.
  • A history of trauma or abuse.
  • Prolonged stress.
  • Isolation.
  • Age. People under age 24 or above age 65 are at a higher risk for suicide (in Nebraska, the highest number of suicides are found in the 20-24 age group.)
  • A recent tragedy or loss.
  • Agitation and sleep deprivation.
  • A prior suicide attempt.

Warning signs for suicide in any age group include:

  • Threats or comments about killing themselves, also known as suicidal ideation
  • Increased alcohol and drug use
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Social withdrawal from friends, family and the community
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Talking, writing or thinking about death
  • Impulsive or reckless behavior

Any person exhibiting these behaviors should get care immediately:

  • Putting their affairs in order and giving away their possessions
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family
  • Mood shifts from despair to calm

Planning, possibly by looking around to buy, steal or borrow the methods they need to complete suicide, such as a firearm or prescription

Individuals and families and friends of those with suicidal thoughts can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255.) Those uncomfortable talking on the phone can also text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor.