Doing More to Save Lives

Aug 13, 2014
By: Paolo del Vecchio, M.S.W., Director, Center for Mental Health Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

The number of Americans who die by suicide continues to increase. In 2011, suicide accounted for 39,518 deaths in the United States1. In 2012, an estimated 9 million adults, aged 18 and older, reported having serious thoughts of suicide2. The loss of someone to suicide affects family, friends, coworkers, and others in the community. Family and friends may experience a range of painful emotions, such as shock, anger, guilt, and depression3. Yet, this doesn't have to be. SAMHSA and its partners are working to reduce deaths by suicide nationwide

The National Action Alliance on Suicide Prevention – a public/private effort – is leading efforts to reduce the number of deaths by suicide in America by implementing the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention.  The Strategy details priority goals and objectives for reducing suicide including:

  • Focusing efforts on high-risk populations – such as those in the middle years and American Indians/Alaska Natives.  SAMHSA recently announced a new grant program to prevent and reduce suicidal behavior and substance abuse and promote mental health within tribal communities (Native Connections),
  • Promoting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK), which for the first time in 2013 answered over 1 million calls in a single year,
  • Reducing access to lethal means,
  • Integrating suicide prevention in mental health and primary care settings, especially since many individuals have treatment encounters prior to attempting suicide, and
  • Supporting the involvement of suicide attempt survivors in suicide prevention efforts.

Everyone can play a role in suicide prevention. Learn more about what you can do to prevent suicide with SAMHSA’s Suicide Prevention Resource Center, which has customized information sheets for teachers, co-workers, faith community leaders and more. Together, we can make a difference in reducing and preventing suicide.

Additional Resources for Suicide Prevention:

[1] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011).10 Leading Causes of Death by Age Group, United States – 2011. Retrieved from
[2] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2013). Results from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Mental Health Findings (NSDUH Series H-47, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 13-4805). Rockville, MD. Retrieved from
[3] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Understanding Suicide: Fact Sheet. Retrieved from

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