Suicide: Taking Nearly 100 Lives a Day in the United States

"Patients have shared that they were suicidal, and ready to do it. I've asked 'What changed your mind?' They often say 'My friend called me.' Or 'Mom and dad showed me they cared.' Someone interacted at that moment. Those friends or family heard some statements that they had concerns about -and that's when it's important to interact and intercede," said Dr. Philip Schlobohm, a Board-Certified psychiatrist with Riverside Medical Group.

Dr. Schlobohm shares his perspective on suicide awareness after 38 years of practice. Psychiatric disorders greatly increase the likelihood of suicide, and that's why it's so important to have disorders identified and treated by a professional.

Suicidal ideation is when people who are depressed start thinking about planning to end their life. They say 'I'm tired of feeling this way';'No one cares about me';'I have no purpose in life.' When you hear these things -this is when you must interact," Schlobohm said. -family or friends need to say 'I'm concerned about what you said! What's happening in your life?' "How can I help you?" "Let's talk/"

When someone is hopeless and no one pays attention to what they are saying, it reinforces the idea that no one cares," he said. "It can become deadly very quickly.

Risk factors for suicide include:

  • Untreated conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, substance abuse
  • Recent suicide in their family or circle of friends, or a celebrity
  • The age group of 45-65 highest risk, followed by ages 80 and older
  • History of suicide in the family
  • Having ready access to means of suicide like guns or medication

"Depression is treatable and we have many medications that we didn't have before. We can do genetic testing to hone in on what medications might work best for you. There are non-medication treatments available, too like Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). They can talk to a counselor or therapist who can help them see through the veil of negativity," he said.

Schlobohm said there's less stigma of seeking help these days, particularly with younger adults. "People are more educated now about mental illness. I think that once they decide that it's time for help, they open up the more, and they often know that there are more than a few medication options," he said.

But seeking help is still difficult for the older generation. "People over 50 often think they should be able to handle it themselves. Another common misconception is that people think to themselves 'I can't be helped.'"

Barriers to being treated for depression:

  • Stigma of mental illness
  • Idea that you should be able to handle this alone, failing family if you seek help
  • Economics: can't work, lost job, no insurance coverage
  • Not knowledgeable about where to go for free help

Another misconception is that everyone experiences depression, so why treat it? "Feeling sad is not being clinically depressed. Everyone has stress in their lives or feels isolated occasionally. Clinical depression has certain classic signs: lack motivation to do things they used to like, no energy for those things, not being able to sleep, sleeping too much, eating too much or too little with significant weight loss or gain, crying spells, and suicidal ideations when the depression deepens Schlobohm said.

With suicide ranking #10 as a cause of death in the U.S., this preventable condition should be taken seriously. Family and friends working together can identify risk factors and help the distressed person obtain help.


  • People in Virginia without insurance or who cannot afford treatment can call their Community Services Board. There are also inpatient treatment options, even if you don't have insurance.
  • Hampton/Newport News: 757-788-0300
  • Middle Peninsula/Northern Neck: 800-542-2673 (emergency line)
  • Eastern Shore: 757-442-7707 (emergency line)
  • Williamsburg/York/James: 757-220-3200 (emergency line)
  • National Suicide Hotline: 800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Admissions office at Riverside Behavioral Health: 757-827-3119


Published: August 21, 2014