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By DOH-Santa Rosa

August 29, 2019

Milton, FL - September is Suicide Prevention Month. Every year, suicide is among the top 20 leading causes of death globally for people of all ages. It is responsible for over 800,000 deaths, which equates to one suicide every 40 seconds. Every life that ends in suicide represents someone’s partner, child, parent, friend, or colleague. 

For each suicide approximately 135 people suffer intense grief or are otherwise affected. This amounts to 108 million people per year who are profoundly impacted by suicidal behavior. Suicidal behavior includes suicide and encompasses suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. For every suicide, 25 people make a suicide attempt and many more have serious thoughts of suicide. 

Suicide is the result of a convergence of genetic, psychological, social, cultural and other risk factors, sometimes combined with experiences of trauma and loss. People who take their own lives represent a heterogeneous group, with unique, complex and multifaceted causal influences preceding their final act. This presents challenges for suicide prevention experts; these challenges can be overcome by adopting a multilevel and cohesive approach to suicide prevention. 

“Preventing suicide is often possible and everyone is a key player in its prevention,” said Matt Dobson, public health services manager for the Florida Department of Health in Santa Rosa County (DOH-Santa Rosa). 

“It’s important to raise awareness about the issue of suicide. Talking about it is never easy, but it’s very important to do it right, because suicide is a public health issue. The 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment revealed that mental health, along with drug use, diabetes, and infant health, were the top health priorities for Santa Rosa County. So, we are addressing mental health in the next CHIP for Santa Rosa,” explains Dobson. 

The CHIP is an acronym that stands for Community Health Improvement Plan. It addresses the top health concerns that affect the residents of Santa Rosa County. The CHIP will focus on the top health concerns for the county over the next 3 years by forming goals, strategies and tactics to improve the overall health of the county. Partnerships with DOH-Santa Rosa will be instrumental in the success of the strategies.  

RISK FACTORS for Suicide:

  • Relationship problems (loss of girlfriend/boyfriend, divorce, etc.).
  • History of previous attempts.
  • Substance abuse.
  • History of depression or other mental illness.
  • Family history of suicide or violence.
  • Work related problems.
  • Life transitions.
  • A serious medical problem.
  • Significant loss (death of loved one, loss due to natural disasters, etc.).
  • Current/pending disciplinary or legal action.
  • Setbacks (academic, career, or personal).
  • Severe, prolonged, and/or perceived unmanageable stress.
  • A sense of powerlessness, helplessness, and/or hopelessness.

WARNING SIGNS for Suicide:

  • Talk of suicide or killing someone else.
  • Giving away property or disregard for what happens to one’s property.
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities.
  • Problems with girlfriend, boyfriend, or spouse.
  • Acting bizarre or unusual (based on your knowledge of that person).
  • Having a desire to die.
  • Formulating a plan to include acquiring the means to kill oneself.
  • Obsession with death (music, poetry, artwork.)
  • Themes of death in letters and notes.
  • Finalizing personal affairs.
  • Sleeping too little or too much.
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
  • Talking about being a burden to others.
  • Displaying extreme mood swings.
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.

SUICIDAL RISK is highest when:

  • The person sees no way out and fears things may get worse.
  • The predominant emotions are hopelessness and helplessness.
  • Thinking is constricted with a tendency to perceive his or her situation as all bad.
  • Judgement is impaired by use of alcohol or other substances.

“Of all the intervention efforts, connectedness is one of the key elements of preventing suicide. Positive and supportive social relationships and community connections can help buffer the effects of risk factors in people’s lives,” says Dobson.

In years past, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) adopted promoting connectedness as one of its strategic directions for preventing suicidal behavior. The CDC defines connectedness as “the degree to which a person or group is socially close, interrelated, or shares resources with other persons or groups.” 

Connectedness can include: 

  • Connectedness between individuals (e.g., friends, neighbors, co-workers)
  • Connectedness among family members  
  • Connectedness to community organizations (e.g., schools, faith communities)
  • The connection of groups (e.g., minority groups) to their cultural traditions and history.

Connectedness and support can be enhanced through social programs directed at specific groups, as well as through activities that support the development of positive and supportive communities. 

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. All month, mental health advocates, prevention organizations, survivors, allies, and community members unite to promote suicide prevention awareness. 

National Suicide Prevention Week is the Monday through Sunday surrounding World Suicide Prevention Day. It’s a time to share resources and stories, as well as promote suicide prevention awareness. 

World Suicide Prevention Day is September 10. It’s a time to remember those affected by suicide, to raise awareness, and to focus efforts on directing treatment to those who need it most. 

If you need help or know of someone who does, call the SUICIDE Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also text “GULF” to 741741; the Crisis Text Line is free, 24/7, confidential crisis support by text. 

The Florida Department of Health in Santa Rosa County hosts the Injury Prevention Coalition meeting every third Thursday at the health department, 5527 Stewart Street in Milton. The coalition is currently addressing suicide and poisoning (drug overdoses) and is open to new members. The public, area agencies, and organizations are invited to participate in the coalition's efforts to help strategize in preventing suicide and drug abuse in our communities.

If you are interested in joining the coalition, contact Matt Dobson at 850-564-2233. 


  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Strategic direction for the prevention of suicidal behavior: Promoting individual, family, and community connectedness to prevent suicidal behavior. Retrieved from

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