Samaritans seeing increase in suicide rates -- here’s how you can help

It is the busiest suicide prevention office in the northeast.

“Somewhere between 130 and 150 phone calls a day,” said Ron White of Samaritans, a suicide prevention organization.

And, sadly, it is just getting busier.

“In every category we've seen an increase in suicide rates,” White said.

For nearly 50 years, Samaritans has been taking calls from the lonely, the hopeless and those in the depths of despair.

But Ron White, Chief Program Officer for the organization, says sometimes those on the verge of suicide will call, instead, a friend or family member.

So how do you handle that?

“Take a breath [and] remain calm,” he said. “Stay with them in that moment because it's likely this is the first time they've acknowledged or been able to talk about their suicidal thoughts.”

If the suicidal person seems in imminent danger, seek immediate help in the form of emergency services. Otherwise, keep them talking and ask if you can help keep them safe.

“Can you leave that gun with me until you're better,” White suggested saying. “If you have a three-months supply of pills, can I keep two and a half months?”

Despite the Christmas Day parking garage tragedy involving a mother and two young children, White says the holidays are actually not peak season for suicides. They’re more common in spring and fall.

Parking garages are, sadly, not uncommon venues for suicides and suicide attempts. A survey a few years ago of parking garage owners found about 40% experienced an actual suicide at one of their structures. Another 10% experienced a suicide attempt.

And studies suggest one effective way to prevent suicides from high structures is by creating barriers, which the Renaissance parking garage did not have.

“I think if there was a way to erect some barriers up there that would certainly be helpful,” White said.

Barriers are especially important, White says, if a site has had previous suicides because studies show that makes them ‘hot spots’ for further attempts.

Case in point: the Tobin Bridge, where Bob Hurley witnessed a suicide attempt a few years back.

“It was disturbing to see that somebody would go to that length,” Hurley said.

The Tobin now has barriers and a sign for the Samaritans.

>>> Burden of the Badge: The alarming rate of suicide among first responders

The owner of Renaissance garage, Northeastern University, says they plan to close access to the top floors of the garage while they work on a permanent solution. They also plan on having 24-hour security staffing to monitor the garage.

You are not alone. If you or someone you know is struggling, know there is help. There are local and national resources available.

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