Suicide is one of the most severe social and mental health issues in the United States today. In 2009, 36,000 Americans committed suicide, making it the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.
As a social worker, regardless of the setting you work in, you are likely to have contact with clients at risk of suicide. For this reason, all social workers should familiarize themselves with the warning signs of suicide and appropriate responses. If you are particularly interested in suicide prevention, learn more about these five organizations:
1. National Suicide Prevention Hotline
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline (NSPH) provides free confidential over-the-phone crisis counseling to anyone contemplating suicide or experiencing emotional turmoil. The hotline also provides mental health referrals. NSPH has answered more than two million calls since it launched in 2005.
Like the above organization, the Veterans Crisis Line (VCL) provides free confidential over-the-phone crisis counseling and mental health referrals to anyone experiencing emotional distress or contemplating suicide. They specialize in the mental health and cultural issues associated with military life, and have many veterans on staff. The VCL also has a fully operational chat counseling program and can even be contacted by text message. They have answered more than 600,000 calls and rescued more than 21,000 veterans since 2007.
3. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention funds research, educates the public and professionals, and promotes relevant policies, to prevent suicide. The foundation also provides programming and resources directly to those at risk of suicide and those who have been affected by suicide. Perhaps the most profound aspect of the foundation’s work is that it strives to incorporate survivors of suicide and those at risk into its work which enables them to find purpose in preventing further suffering.
4. The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide
The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide is a national organization focused on suicide prevention education for teens, parents and teachers. Since the society’s formation in 2005, they have helped pass legislation in New Jersey requiring suicide prevention training for teachers, developed an online training program that has been used by 22,000 teachers and delivered 2,500 live presentations. The work of this organization is particularly important as suicide is the third most common cause of death among youth ages 10 to 24 in the United States.
5. The American Association of Suicidology
The American Association of Suicidology is dedicated to promoting a scientific approach to suicide intervention and prevention through research, education and providing survivor support resources. This membership organization is worth joining for anyone professionally involved in, or hoping to be involved in, suicide prevention. The association’s online career center will be of particular interest to MSW students looking for their first post-graduation jobs.