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By Caroline Fleck

About this blog: I am a clinical psychologist, mother, and wife committed to using my life to help the lives of those around me. In addition to seeing clients in my private practice, I contribute to various training and research initiatives in cli...  (More)

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Preventing Suicide in the Bay Area

Uploaded: Mar 7, 2015
There are a couple of factors that make crises difficult to manage:

1. They are often unexpected
2. By definition, they represent moments of extreme emotional upheaval
3. As readers of my blog know, we don't typically think clearly during periods of extreme distress and are thus ill equipped to make complex decisions or problem solve effectively

Not surprisingly, this constellation of factors can have devastating results when the crisis one is experiencing is psychological or emotional in nature. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death for ages 10-24 (2010 CDC WISQARS). More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, COMBINED.

I could continue to rattle off statistics, but instead I'll just cut to the point - suicide has become a major national health problem. And it's a problem that isn't helped by the tension and dis-ease it evokes; to be honest, I hesitated for a moment before writing this post for fear that it would be too "heavy" of a topic. I then of course realized that in avoiding the issue I would be inadvertently contributing to the problem.

Instead, I've opted to use this forum to share some local and national suicide prevention resources. Again, a crisis is not generally an optimal time to be conducting research or trying to coordinate resources. If you or someone you know have experienced suicidal thoughts or behaviors in the past, please consider bookmarking the following information.

National Resources
1. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) is available 24 hours/day to people all across the country. Their website encourages individuals to call if they feel they are in crisis, even if they are not thinking about suicide.

2. Adolescents in crisis can text "start" to the number 741-741 in order to connect with the Crisis Text Line.

3. Facebook is currently in the process of rolling out features that provide users with ways of managing concerning content posted by friends. Specifically, the features (which are currently available to about half of all current users and should be available to all in the coming months) allow you to flag troubling content, get advice on how to reach out to the friend, and will even send the friend resources at your request. All of this is in an effort to help users respond more effectively and immediately to potential crises.

Bay Area Resources:
Without a doubt, the most comprehensive list of emergency suicide risk facilities in the Bay area can be found at Merritt Mental Health. Here you can receive directories for emergency services for specific regions of the Bay area (San Francisco, South Bay, etc.). I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Merritt several weeks ago regarding his efforts to organize and distribute this information and can personally attest to the thoroughness of his methods and his commitment to this work.

Peninsula and South Bay Resources:
All of the following locations provide inpatient psychiatric services for adults (meaning suicidal or self-injurious adults can be admitted to the hospital for stabilization). Although most also provide evaluations for adolescents and children, Sutter Health Mills Health Center is the only one that can admit adolescents to the hospital for stabilization.

1. El Camino Hospital (Mountain View, 650-940-7000)
2, Good Samaritan Hospital (San Jose, 408-559-2011)
3. Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara Medical Center (Santa Clara, 408-851-1000)
4. San Mateo Medical Center (San Mateo, 650-573-2222)
5. Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (San Jose, 408-885-5000)
6. Stanford Hospital (650-723-5111)
7. Sutter Health Mills Health Center (Burlingame, 650-696-5915)

This is just a snapshot of the national and local resources available to those in crisis. If you know or would recommend any other hotlines, text services, or facilities, please feel free to share the information below.
What is it worth to you?


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by parent, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Mar 9, 2015 at 4:28 pm

Having these phone numbers is handy. My question is how do parents and friends know when it is appropriate to call these numbers? What happens if you call the number to report a 3rd party that may (or may not) be in trouble?

 +   2 people like this
Posted by Caroline Fleck, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Mar 9, 2015 at 4:54 pm

Caroline Fleck is a registered user.

Excellent question! It depends on whom you call. Crisis lines and crisis text lines may be able to coach you thru how to proceed, depending on the agency, though they are generally designed to help individuals in crisis. Facebook, as I mentioned, is in the process of taking on more of a support role for concerned friends and family.

I wouldn't recommend contacting any of the emergency room or inpatient psychiatric wards as they would need to assess the person directly to determine risk. You can, however, contact your local police department and request that they do a "welfare check." They will help determine if following up with the person immediately is necessary. If so, they will do so. In some cases you can go with them, in some cases not. For more information on this, check out the following link: .

 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Neighbor, a resident of another community,
on Mar 9, 2015 at 8:44 pm

Thank you for this article, Caroline.

If you have suspicions that someone might be considering suicide, listening to them and directly asking if they're considering suicide can allow them to reach out and seek help. If they are not suicidal, asking about it does not plant the idea in their heads, but if they are, it can be a relief that you brought it up and are there to talk with them.

I learned this in a QPR training, which is part of the training for my job working in graduate student residences. QPR stands for "Question, Persuade, Refer", and it is a way to prepare for helping someone who may be in crisis. The resources provided in this article are very useful for referrals. More info on the QPR idea/training is available here: Web Link Dr. Merritt's Suicide Risk Project appears to have a similar philosophy about how to respond in a crisis. This is a fairly simple set of ideas, but it can take practice to get over the discomfort of talking directly about such a taboo.

Carolyn, I've appreciated reading your series on improving happiness, and I'm glad you also wrote about preventing suicide.

 +   2 people like this
Posted by Caroline Fleck, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Mar 10, 2015 at 1:40 pm

Caroline Fleck is a registered user.

So glad you mentioned this point! You are exactly right - folks trained in suicide prevention and risk assessment learn to be very direct and specific in discussing suicide with folks who may be at risk. Evidence does not suggest that being direct or specific in talking about suicidality will increase the likelihood that someone will suicide, or increase their thoughts of suicide. This is sometimes confused by the fact that the occurrence of suicide often results in increased suicide attempts in schools or communities where the suicide occurred. This has been termed "contagion suicide." Again, the research suggests that this is not the case for simply assessing one's thoughts about suicide or if they have plans, intentions, or a means by which to do it. It's the occurrence of a suicide that increases the risk for folks in those communities, not talking about or assessing it.

Thanks for your comment; it's an important one!

 +   1 person likes this
Posted by CopperC, a resident of Cuesta Park,
on Apr 4, 2015 at 3:09 pm

Helpful for those facing a crisis. If you have the luxury of dealing with things way ahead of time, Kare Morrison's "Conscious Neglect" is a must read.
(Published in Funny Times, but dead serious).
Web Link

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Caroline Fleck, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Apr 5, 2015 at 12:48 pm

Caroline Fleck is a registered user.

Awesome, thanks for the reference!

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