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Tips for preventing suicide

Experts emphasize that suicide is preventable.

The World Health Organization says a majority of suicides can be prevented and lists a number of steps that can be taken at the community and national levels to reduce the risk.

But personal observation and intervention are also effective, according to experts.

Most often, the suicidal impulse is driven by mental illness that causes a breakdown in the ability to solve problems, leaving the person unable to understand alternatives.

Interrupting the impulse can lead to effective treatment, according to experts, who offered the following tips for preventing suicide:

1. Call the nationwide suicide prevention hotline, 800-273-TALK (8255). It’s free and always staffed. Service members and veterans can press 1 for specialized connections.

2. Ask if there appears to be a risk that a person is going to harm himself or herself. Asking will not put the idea in a person’s head. But someone struggling with the possibility will appreciate being able to talk about it.

3. Key warning signs are expressing a desire to die, feelings of being trapped or a burden on others and the experience of unbearable pain. The American Association of Suicidology says you can remember the signs by “Is Path Warm?”: ideation, substance abuse, purposelessness, anxiety, trapped, hopelessness, withdrawal, anger, recklessness, mood change.

4. If these signs are detected, remove weapons, medications, alcohol and any other means of self-injury.

5. For men, who are sometimes unwilling to seek help, the Web site uses a man-to-man approach.

6. Many local suicide hotlines handle text messages to accommodate teenagers and college students. Some prevention programs also scan blog and Web postings for indications of suicidal thinking among site users.

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Dan Keating analyzes data for projects, stories, graphics and interactives. He was part of a team that won a Pulitzer at The Miami Herald for exposing vote fraud, and a team that was a Pulitzer finalist the year before for uncovering police fraud.

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