Facts and Numbers

About Us

The Virginia Department of Health’s (VDH) Suicide Prevention Program prioritizes primary prevention intervention strategies in addressing suicide throughout the Commonwealth. Primary prevention, or addressing health related outcomes before they occur, can include a variety of strategies across a broad range of health topics. For example, vaccines are used to help reduce the spread and severity of disease before people get sick. This is a common example of primary prevention.

In suicide prevention, one strategy that is often employed includes gatekeeper training. Gatekeeper training attempts to educate the public about things they can do to reduce suicide death including, recognizing the signs, asking people directly about whether or not they want to die, and helping them get professional support through a private provider or one of Virginia’s 40 Community Services Boards (CSBs).

In addition to funding the training of gatekeepers, VDH works to address risk and protective factors related to suicide death. 

Risk Factors

Risk factors are long standing conditions, stressful events, or situations that may increase the likelihood of a suicide attempt or death. Risk factors do not cause suicide, but when many factors are present; these may increase an individual’s vulnerability.

    • Risk Factor Individual:
      • Previous suicide attempt
      • Mental illness, such as depression
      • Social isolation
      • Criminal problems
      • Financial problems
      • Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
      • Job problems or loss
      • Legal problems
      • Serious illness
      • Substance use disorder
      • Relationship:
      • Adverse childhood experiences such as child abuse and neglect
      • Bullying
      • Family history of suicide
      • Relationship problems such as a break-up, violence, or loss
      • Sexual violence
    • Community:
      • Barriers to health care
      • Cultural and religious beliefs such as a belief that suicide is noble resolution of a personal problem
      • Suicide cluster in the community
    • Societal:
      • Stigma associated with mental illness or help-seeking
      • Easy access to lethal means among people at risk (e.g. firearms, medications)
      • Unsafe media portrayals of suicide

Protective Factors

There are also protective factors that can reduce the likelihood of suicide among some.  

    • Protective Factors
      • Coping and problem-solving skills (Social Emotional Learning)
      • Connections to friends, family, and community support
      • Supportive relationships with care providers
      • Availability of physical and mental health care
      • Limited access to lethal means among people at risk
      • Validating and supportive environments

Warning Signs

Suicide is preventable. While some suicides occur without any outward warning, most people who are suicidal do show warning signs

    • List of Warning Signs
      • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
      • Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun
      • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
      • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
      • Talking about being a burden to others
      • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
      • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
      • Sleeping too little or too much
      • Withdrawing or isolating themselves
      • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
      • Extreme mood swings

What to Do

ASK Directly ask if the person is having thoughts of suicide.

LISTEN Don’t judge and don’t try to solve problems; focus on getting help.

REFER to a mental health professional, Community Services Board, or call 1-800-273-8255

  • suicidehotline
                                             To Learn More, visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Crisis Text Line https://www.crisistextline.org/text-us/

LGBT National Help Center http://www.glnh.org/

Now Matters Now https://nowmattersnow.org/skills

The Trevor Project LGBTQ Help https://www.thetrevorproject.org/