Frequently Asked Questions

Statistics Related Questions
Program Related Questions
Public Awareness Education Questions



Statistics Related Questions:

Why is the rate of suicide above the New England  average rate?
Maine’s suicide rate consistently ranks above the average for the New England States. It should be noted, however, that the New England states consistently rank lower than the nation as a whole. Annual fluctuations in the number of suicides, especially in states with lower populations, dramatically affects suicide rates. It is believed that the rural nature of the state, the perception that helping resources are not readily available and the easy accessibility to lethal means, especially firearms, all contribute to higher rates of suicide in Maine and other rural states.

How does Maine’s suicide rate rank nationally?

In 2008, the most current data available, Maine ranked 20th with a rate of 15.4 per 100,000, which is higher than the national rate of 13.7 per 100,000.

Year National Rate Maine Rate Maine Rank
2002 12.7 14.4 21
2003 12.5 11.8 37
2004 11.1 13.0 21
2005 11.0 13.2 18
2006 11.1 12.0 28
2007 11.5 14.5 14
2008 13.7 15.4 20


Why is the suicide rate higher in rural areas?
According to available national data, rural areas in the US experience higher suicide rates than urban areas. The rate of depression does not appear to be higher, nor are suicide attempts more prevalent. One possible explanation might be that people are more likely to die from their attempts because of their remoteness from emergency medical care. Also, household gun ownership is more prevalent in rural households and firearms have a higher fatality rate than other methods, leaving little to no opportunity for rescue. Studies that have examined the link between household gun ownership and suicide rates, even when controlling for other factors related to suicide, have found a relationship between gun availability and suicide rates. Easy access to guns is only one factor and further research is necessary to fully understand both the risk and protective factors for suicide in each state. (Harvard School of Public Health, August 2005) See www.hsph.harvard.edu/means-matter/index.html for more information.

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Program Related Questions:

What is the Maine Suicide Prevention Program?
The Maine Suicide Prevention Program (MSPP) is a collaboration among state agency leaders and staff and community service providers, schools and suicide survivors. The program is housed within and led by staff of the Maine Injury Prevention Program in the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services. The MSPP provides resources such as a statewide crisis hotline and information resource center, mobile crisis outreach, training and education programs, and resource materials for suicide prevention and early intervention activities. Crisis services provide a variety of services including: telephone consultation, telephone support and referral, assessments, stabilization services, and crisis stabilization residential services. The toll free statewide crisis number (1-888-568-1112) is answered 7 days a week, 24 hours a day by trained clinicians.  

Program goals are to:

  • Provide leadership and coordination that guides suicide prevention among Maine citizens
  • Promote access to suicide prevention and intervention services in health care settings across the state
  • Implement effective suicide prevention initiatives within public and private organizations
  • Promote professional competency in suicide prevention, intervention and postvention
  • Support a culture of help seeking for people in need in Maine

Who should be involved in suicide prevention? Whose responsibility is it?
MSPP believes that suicide prevention is up to all of us! It is especially important that everyone who works with children and adults knows the early warning signs of suicidal behavior, how to intervene and when and how to access help.

What is the Federal Government doing?
The Federal Government supports efforts to implement the “National Strategy for Suicide Prevention” updated in 2012 by the U.S. Surgeon General. To read the National Strategy For Suicide Prevention go to: http://www.samhs.gov/prevention/ or for more information on suicide prevention, visit the nationally funded Suicide Prevention Resource Center at www.sprc.org.

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Public Awareness Education:

What should everyone know about youth suicide?
Talking about suicide does NOT cause suicide. There are almost always some warning signs of suicide. Anyone can learn to intervene in suicidal behavior; and MANY suicides CAN be prevented when warning signs are recognized and people get the help and support they need. Removing lethal means (i.e. guns, ropes, pills & poisons etc.) from the presence of a suicidal individual is an important prevention strategy. For more information, visit: www.hsph.harvard.edu/means-matter/index.html

What causes suicide?
Suicidal behavior is one of the most complicated of human behaviors. This question cannot be answered briefly. There is no research that shows that a particular set of risk factors can accurately predict the likelihood of imminent danger of suicide for a specific individual. It is fair to say that suicidal people are experiencing varying degrees of external stress, internal conflicts and biological dysfunction and these factors together contribute to their state of mind. Depression, anxiety, conduct disorders, and substance abuse all contribute to the possibility of suicide, but they do not cause suicide. The exact reasons behind an individual suicide often remain a mystery though it is very helpful to know the warning signs and to get help for people showing these signs.

How do you know if someone is suicidal?
The best way to know whether or not someone is suicidal is to ASK! Whether or not you know the warning signs of suicide, if for ANY reason you think someone might be suicidal, it is perfectly OK to ask. You will not cause suicide by asking and you may very well save a life. Suicidal individuals are in a lot of pain, and the very fact that someone has noticed, has expressed concern and asked about suicide, can provide the relief and time needed to explore other options and get help.

How do you get a suicidal individual to talk?

  • Take ALL talk/hints of suicide seriously
  • LISTEN with concern, caring and respect
  • Ask directly about suicidal thoughts and plans
  • Do not judge, lecture, discount or criticize
  • Offer hope in any way possible
  • Never keep suicidal behavior a secret even if the person asks you to
  • Assist in finding help and support
  • Do not leave a suicidal person alone; be sure that firearms, pills, rope are not available
  • Call mental health professional, or crisis services and for children and youth, contact parents and another adult trusted by the child if/when indicated

What are the warning signs of suicide?

  • Talk of suicide, death
  • Neglect of appearance, hygiene
  • Dropping out of activities
  • Isolating self from friends, family
  • Feeling life is meaningless, feeling unloved
  • Hopelessness, helplessness increases
  • Perceived burdensomeness
  • Refuses help, feels beyond help
  • Puts life in order-may make a will
  • Picks a fight, argues
  • Gives away favorite possessions
  • Verbal clues (see below)
  • Sudden improvement in mood, behavior after being down or withdrawn*

*It is important to note that most suicidal people, no matter what their age, usually suffer from some degree of depression. In many people, the depression may be undiagnosed until a crisis occurs. Depression may leave a person feeling drained, “too tired” to carry out a suicide plan of action. When the depression begins to lift and you notice a sudden improvement, be warned that this could be a very dangerous time. Three months following a period of depression is a critical time of suicidal risk. The person has the energy to act, and may even appear cheerful and at peace with the world.

How can people help prevent a suicide?

  • Encourage the person to talk about his/her feelings
  • Stay calm and listen
  • Take all threats seriously
  • Be accepting, DO NOT judge or lecture
  • Let the person know you care
  • Ask about suicidal thoughts
  • Ask if he/she has a plan
  • Never promise secrecy-tell someone who can provide needed help
  • Get help
  • Stay with the person until help is arranged

Are Maine schools doing enough to prevent youth suicide?
The school role in suicide prevention and crisis intervention is a limited one, but school staff members play a crucial role in identifying and helping at-risk youth to access services. All Maine school administrators have received guidelines for development of school procedures. Using these guidelines to develop school protocols to respond to suicidal behavior prepares school staff to be better prepared to prevent suicide and intervene effectively in a crisis situation.

Most Maine schools have sent key people to the MSPP Gatekeeper Training. Sending key school staff to be trained is a really important step to learn the basics of youth suicide prevention. The one-day Gatekeeper training teaches risk factors, warning signs and, most importantly, how to recognize and respond to a suicidal youth. Training in how to conduct suicide prevention awareness education, Lifelines student lessons and other training programs are also available from the MSPP.

What should schools do to prevent suicide?
The MSPP recommends that schools integrate suicide prevention by:

  • Developing procedures to follow to prevent youth suicide or to intervene in a suicide crisis
  • Developing formal agreements between the school and local crisis service providers
  • Sending several key staff to Gatekeeper training
  • Offering ongoing awareness education for ALL school staff members
  • Providing education and resources for parents and other community members
  • Integrating student lessons that build help-seeking skills for all students within their Comprehensive School Health Education curriculum
  • Providing or linking to services for youth at high risk

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Maine’s young people and the 10th leading cause of death among Mainers of all ages. Suicide claims more lives of young people than cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia and influenza, and chronic lung disease combined. For every homicide in Maine, there are seven suicides.

Suicide deaths, though very tragic, are the tip of the iceberg. Suicidal behavior among youth is thought to be far higher than in adult populations. It is estimated that there are 25 to 100 suicide attempts by adolescents and young adults for every youth suicide.

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