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Disability Rights of West Virginia
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Suicide Prevention

Article by Megan Elliott, Family Services Navigator - NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)

Suicide is one the most preventable deaths, yet it remains a leading cause of death worldwide year after year. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken more lives for reasons beyond the virus itself. Two major contributing risk factors for suicide are isolation and hopelessness, feelings which have been exacerbated through quarantine and social distancing.  As of 2019, there were 47,511 deaths by suicide in The United States alone. West Virginia has a rate of 18.8/100,000 or 3,445 deaths by suicide which puts the state among the top 10 in the U.S. for lives lost.

Risk Factors

Knowing the risk factors attributed to suicide is a vital piece of prevention efforts. Some of these risk factors include:

  • Previous Suicide Attempt

  • Substance Misuse

  • Depression and other Mental Illness

  • Serious Illness and/or Disability

  • Bullying

  • Adverse Childhood Events

  • Witness to or experience of violence

  • Lack of access to healthcare

  • History of suicide in family/loved ones

  • Discrimination

  • Financial Hardship

  • Stigma around mental illness

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Protective Factors

Another important aspect of suicide prevention is the implementation of protective factors. Much like any other illness, there are steps we can take to ensure the health and safety of ourselves and those around us. It is within the ability of each of us to practice these actions. Some examples of protective factors include:

  • Support from loved ones

  • Access to healthcare, including mental health

  • Cultural Connections

  • Religious Beliefs

  • Involvement in school, community, or social organizations

  • Reduced access to lethal means

  • Effective coping skills

  • Connections to others

Access to Lethal Means

Restricting access to lethal means can be one of the biggest protective factors we have against death by suicide. Lethal means are anything which can be used to complete suicide. This includes but is not limited to firearms, medications, and sharp objects such as knives. Proper storage of these everyday items can go a long in keeping our communities safe from suicide. This can be done through the implementation of firearm locks, gun safes, and lock boxes to name just a few methods. Taking the time to safely store these potential dangers even when suicide is not believed to be a concern is worth more than a life lost.

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IS PATH WARM is an easy to memorize acronym that anyone can use in assessing risk for suicide. This handy tool looks like this:

  • Isolation – Increase in time spent alone

  • Substance Abuse – Improper or excessive use of substances such as drugs or alcohol

  • Purposelessness – Saying things like “I feel useless” or “I don’t have a purpose in life”

  • Anxiety – Increased nervousness or worry

  • Trapped – Can be expressed as a lack of motivation. Saying things like “I feel stuck”

  • Hopelessness – Lack of hope for the future

  • Withdrawal – Withdrawing from family, friends, or loved ones

  • Anger – Uncharacteristic or increased anger

  • Recklessness – Uncharacteristic or increased risk-taking behavior

  • Mood Changes – Unusual or dramatic changes in mood or behavior


If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one, please reach out to any of the resources below for help. You Are Not Alone!

  • 988 suicide and crisis lifeline, call or text



  • 844.MY.LOST1




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