#BeTheOneTo – Suicide Prevention

by Chris Abatelli
October 17, 2017

It is estimated that 36,000 Americans commit suicide every year and that over 800,000 attempts of suicide occur in a year. These attempts might be avoided through education, understanding, and professional help. Unfortunately, many who make suicide attempts never seek the professional care needed and may believe that there is no way out of his/her situation.

Unanswered Questions
Survivors of those who die from suicide are left with so many unanswered questions. When a friend is depressed or shows symptoms of being suicidal, many people are still afraid to ask the direct question, “Are you thinking of hurting or killing yourself?”, for fear that the comment may actually plant this idea in her head, even if she wasn’t thinking of it. Scientific research shows that this is not the case. Instead, it is the one comment that may lead your friend to seek the help she needs. Clinical psychologist and suicide expert William Schmitz, Psy.D, states that bringing the subject up suggests that you care and may encourage her to open up to you, share her feelings of despondency, and be the catalyst to her seeking the professional help she needs. There are some simple steps one can take to help: ACE (Ask, Care, Escort) is an acronym to help you remember what to do when you believe someone you know is considering suicide.

DO NOT listen to respond.

Listen to understand what she is feeling. 

Ask: Have the courage to calmly ask if the other person is considering thinking of committing suicide.  Be an active listener, maintain eye contact, be present and focused on the other person, be non- judgmental, show empathy in your body language.  DO NOT listen to respond. Listen to understand what she is feeling.  If your friend reveals a plan to harm herself, do not keep the plan a secret. Realize your limitations.

Care: Make sure to calmly control the situation. If she reveals a plan of harm, let her know there are others who care and have the tools to help her!  Advise her to seek a professional therapist for help, whether through a support group or individual therapy.

Escort: Don’t leave the person alone. Bring her to a doctor, therapist, pastor, youth leader, teacher, or any trusted adult. It is always better to err on the side of caution. Risking your friend’s anger with you for getting her to someone who can help is better than risking that person’s life. If needed, call the national suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255.  The person on the other end of the line is skilled in getting the help needed and will guide you and/or your friend. The worst thing you can do in a crisis is to do nothing.

Once the friend is safe and receiving help, continue to talk to her for days or weeks afterwards, letting her know that you care and are there for her. Make sure you don’t take on the responsibility of your friend’s safety by yourself. For more information and help, visit http://www.sprc.org/.

Prevention and Intervention Seminars are available AT NO COST to churches who decide to sponsor and host them. The seminar teaches what to do if a friend may be suicidal and how to create a personal safety plan. These professionally-led opportunities are the result of a generous grant from St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church’s in Huntington Station, NY. The grant is available through 2020 and expires after that. Call us today at 1-800-317-1173 to arrange your seminar.


Chris Abatelli, LMHC, is a mental health therapist for Pederson-Krag Center and is Director of Youth for St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sayville, NY. Mr. Abatelli has experience in counseling children, teens, couples, adults and families for a wide range of issues including substance abuse, children with special needs, adoptions and conflict resolution. He is a member of the New York Mental Health Counselor Association. Mr. Abatelli was a member of LCC’s counseling staff until his resignation in 2018


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