Anyone could be struggling with thoughts of suicide. By knowing the signs of a mental health challenge and learning how you can help, those needing support can be assisted as soon as possible.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is a preventable public health problem. More investment in suicide prevention, education and research will prevent the untimely deaths of thousands of Americans each year.

One in four Americans lives with behavioral health challenges (mental illness and/or addiction.)  While many seek help and feel supported, many struggle in silence.  Of those who die by suicide, 90 % had a diagnosable psychiatric disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the 10th leading cause of death among Americans and the 2nd leading cause of death among Americans ages 15-34. Suicide prevention training programs can help promote awareness in recognizing when someone is struggling with suicidal thoughts.

To assist those who may be struggling, offers Mental Health First Aid® – a no-cost training for people who live, work, or study in Philadelphia. This eight hour in-person training teaches how to recognize warning signs, how to help a person who may be developing a mental illness (such as depression) or experiencing a crisis.

Those trained in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) can assist and make a difference in the lives of people who may be developing a mental health challenge, or   those experiencing suicidal thoughts. MHFA includes suicide prevention training that teaches the skills needed to identify and respond to the warning signs of suicide.

Individuals trained in Mental Health First Aid can help to:

  • Assess for risk of suicide or harm
  • Break down the bias against people living with mental illnesses, addiction or suicidal thinking
  • Reach out to those who suffer in silence, reluctant to seek help
  • Let individuals struggling with behavioral health challenges know that support is available in their community
  • Provide community resources and information
  • Make behavioral health care and treatment accessible to everyone in need

The suicide prevention component of the training program teaches you to identify the warning signs when helping a person experiencing a behavioral health crisis. Warning signs of suicide taught throughout this training include:

  • Threats to hurt or kill oneself
  • Seeking access to means to hurt or kill oneself
  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Withdrawing from family, friends or society
  • Appearing agitated or angry
  • Having a dramatic change in mood

Participants also learn how to talk with someone who is suicidal, and where they can direct the person for professional assistance such as national suicide hotline numbers, local crisis centers, and support groups for suicide attempt survivors.  Common misunderstandings and myths around suicide are discussed, and connections to resources and information on in-depth suicide prevention trainings are shared (such as ASIST, QPR, More Than Sad).

There are several modules to choose from that address different age groups and populations. Course modules available (as a public or private course) include:

Adult Certification
Youth Certification (also taught in Spanish)
Public Safety Certification
Veterans Certification
Higher Education Certification
Older Adult Certification

It’s the Law

On June 26, 2014, Act 71 was signed into law in Pennsylvania. This law specifically requires school entities to: (1) adopt a youth suicide awareness and suicide prevention policy; and (2) provide ongoing professional development in youth suicide awareness and suicide prevention for professional educators in buildings serving students in grades 6-12.

Youth MHFA is an approved course that meets the requirements of an age-appropriate youth suicide awareness and suicide prevention training, which includes four (4) hours of training in youth suicide awareness and suicide prevention.