By By Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna

When I think of September, I think of back to school, Fall is arriving, and of course with my occupation deadly Santa Ana winds. However,  September is Suicide Prevention Month.

These important messages bear repeating. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates in the U.S. rose 33% from 1999 to 2017. Nearly 45,000 lives were lost to suicide in 2016 alone.

Yet these numbers often obscure the complexity of the issue. It’s common to feel helpless after someone dies by suicide, either because we “saw it coming” but didn’t know what to do or because we didn’t see it at all. That’s why it’s important to train ourselves to recognize and act when we see warning signs remind Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna.


Suicide prevention experts agree that most, but not all, people who die by suicide exhibit warning signs, including:

  • Talking about wanting to die
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious, agitated or recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

The more of these signs a person shows, the greater the risk. Warning signs are associated with suicide but may not be what causes a suicide.

If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide:

  • Do not leave the person alone
  • Remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt
  • Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional

While we can’t change the fact that someone has taken their own life, we can change the conversation around the tragedy in an attempt to prevent another person from doing the same. We can spread the message that while feeling occasional anxiety and depression is normal, dying by suicide is not. Mental wellness and resiliency are possible, and we can help those in need.