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How to Play a Role in Preventing Suicide


September 15, 2022 | View PDF

Lincoln – September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and every Nebraskan has a role in saving lives.

More than 47,000 Americans die by suicide each year, but suicide can be prevented. In Nebraska, a person dies by suicide once every 32 hours.

One of the most effective methods is to raise the subject with a loved one or friend who may be considering suicide. 

“We know that it can be hard to start conversations about mental health,” said Sheri Dawson, director of the Division of Behavioral Health. “Many people can talk about physical health challenges, but may not know what to say when a loved one is experiencing behavioral health challenges. Preventing suicide and connecting people to help always starts with a conversation.

These are very important conversations that could save a life. Asking someone if they’re thinking about suicide can actually protect them. By asking someone directly about suicide, you give them permission to tell you how they feel and let them know they are supported.”

Family and friends are often the first to recognize the warning signs of suicide, and they can take the first step toward helping a loved one find mental health treatment. Warning signs include:

* Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves

* Talking about feeling empty or hopeless or having no reason to live

* Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions

* Feeling unbearable emotional or physical pain

* Talking about being a burden to others

* Withdrawing from family and friends

* Giving away important possessions

* Saying goodbye to friends and family

* Putting affairs in order, such as making a will

* Taking great risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast

* Talking or thinking about death often

* Suicidal behaviors are a psychiatric emergency. If you or a loved one starts to take any of these steps, seek immediate help and call 988:

* Collecting and saving pills or buying a weapon

* Giving away possessions

* Tying up loose ends, like organizing personal papers or paying off debts

* Saying goodbye to friends and family

On July 16, the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline became 988, an easy-to-remember number that provides direct access to compassionate care and support for anyone experiencing mental health-related distress or thoughts of suicide. Downloadable materials for use by the public can be found at Nebraskans can call or text 988 and be connected to a trained counselor. If you have a family or loved one that you are concerned about, 988 counselors can provide assistance. Save a life, just make the call.  

It is also important this month to support those who have lost a loved one to suicide. Because of the stigma associated with behavioral health, many times family and friends of a person who died by suicide feel alone in dealing with their grief.

Nebraska’s Local Outreach to Suicide Loss Survivors (LOSS) is an evidence-based active postvention (activities which reduces risk and promotes healing after a suicide death) model.

This model involves two or more trained volunteers, called a LOSS Team, proactively providing immediate support to those left behind. Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Don Belau (founder of Nebraska LOSS) and Dr. Frank Campbell (Creator of the LOSS Team Postvention Model), LOSS Teams have been active and growing in Nebraska since July 2009.

LOSS Teams consist of trained mental health professionals and suicide loss survivors. The suicide loss survivors on the team have lost a loved one themselves to suicide, got help, and want to be a resource to newly bereaved loss survivors. All members are trained to support survivors in their time of need.

“Suicide deaths often surprise the person’s friends, family, and loved ones, leaving them in mourning,” said Dawson. “LOSS Team members have also faced the challenges of losing a person to suicide and along with clinicians and trained community volunteers, the team can provide insightful support to the grieving process.”

The LOSS team deploys only with the agreement of the survivor's family. Generally, the initial call-out will average 30 to 45 minutes in duration. The focus of the LOSS team is to provide a clear message of hope that the survivors can move through this time of shock and despair by providing information on a variety of resources available in the community and surrounding area.

To find a team near you, visit

Help is available. If you or a loved one need assistance, please reach out to:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Dial 988 from your landline or cell phone.

Your faith-based leader, your healthcare professional, or student health center.

Nebraska Family Helpline – Any question, any time. (888) 866-8660

Rural Response Hotline, (800) 464-0258

Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 (oprime dos para Español) or text TalkWithUs to 66746.

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522

National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4AChild (1-800-422-4453) or text 1-800-422-4453

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

Nebraska Regional Poison Center, 1-800-222-1222.


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