Learn best indicators for suicide

Understand the warning signs


By Regina Clarkin

Suicide is a growing public health crisis. The Herald reached out to Diane Lotto, founder of the Counseling Collective at 1008 Main Street in the wake of 19-year-old Wilmer Cango’s suicide. The Counseling Collective has four therapists / licensed social workers who treat children, adolescents and adults. Lotto, who founded the Collective three years ago, specializes in adolescent mental health and said becoming familiar with the warning signs are the best indicator that someone is contemplating suicide.

Those warning signs look different for teens than for adults because of the onset of hormones. “Teenagers have more energy to take action steps to end their life. Teens are full of energy.” She pointed to indicators, especially in adolescent men, who are struggling with depression. The warning signs include irritability, being quick to anger, easily frustrated and not afraid to express it – and isolating themselves. Giving away treasured possessions is another key indicator, as well as posting on social media about their intentions, continued Lotto. 

Diane Lotto of the Counseling Collective

“There is so much stigma around suicide. People think if they tell someone then they are going to be locked up in an institution next. That is so far from the truth, “ said Lotto. Hospitalization is the last resort, she explained. According to Lotto, there is a huge variety of ways to work with someone who expresses suicidal thoughts. Making a safety plan is a key step in helping someone. An integral part of a safety plan is having someone to talk to and if a person isn’t available knowing to call the suicide prevenation hotline at 988 is one part of a safety plan.The Crisis Text Hotline can be reached here or text HOME to 741741. The Trevor Project Crisis Line text is 678678 and can be reached here.

“Studies show that there is a contagion factor and when people hear about someone committing suicide they start to get an idea,” continued  Lotto,“The challenge for us to is to be aware of people who are struggling and to speak to them about it.  Ask them if they’ve heard about it, and if there is anything they want to talk about, engage with them.” 

The biggest fear people have about having a conversation with someone around suicide is that by talking about it, they are going to make it happen. “Expressing concern is not predictive, it can be a protective factor. People who commit suicide are in pain and they want to end their pain. Being able to validate what it is they are struggling with is helpful, said Lotto. “Letting them know they are cared for and loved,” is important. 

Eight Common Myths about Suicide 

  • MYTH – Talking about suicide increases the risk that a person will act on it. 
  • MYTH – People who talk about suicide are just seeking attention 
  • MYTH – Suicide can’t be prevented
  • MYTH – People who take thier own lives are selfish, coward or weak 
  • MYTH – Teenagers and college students are the most at risk for suicide
  • MYTH – Barriers to bridges, safe firearm storage and other actions to reduce access to lethal methods of suicide don’t work
  • MYTH – Suicide always occurs without warning.
  • MYTH – Talk therapy and medications don’t work. 

Common Signs to be on the lookout for

Here are a few common signs that people display with contemplating suicide: Talking about suicide — making statements such as “I’m going to kill myself,” “I wish I were dead,” or “I wish I hadn’t been born.”

  • Getting the means to take your own life, such as buying a gun or stockpiling pills.
  • Withdrawing from social contact and wanting to be left alone.
  • Having mood swings, such as being emotionally high one day and deeply discouraged the next.
  • Being preoccupied with death, dying or violence.
  • Feeling trapped or hopeless about a situation.
  • Increasing use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Changing normal routine, including eating or sleeping patterns.
  • Doing risky or self-destructive things, such as using drugs or driving recklessly.
  • Giving away belongings or getting affairs in order when there is no other logical explanation for doing this.
  • Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again.
  • Developing personality changes or being severely anxious or agitated, particularly when experiencing some of the warning signs listed above.

If a friend or loved one talks or behaves in a way that makes you believe he or she might attempt suicide, don’t try to handle the situation alone:

  • Get help from a trained professional as quickly as possible.
  • Encourage the person to call a suicide hotline number.
    In the U.S., call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org to reach a trained counselor. Call 988 and press “1” to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.

You’re not responsible for preventing someone from taking their own life, but your intervention may help them see that other options are available to get help and stay safe. 

Lotto and the three other practitioners at the Counseling Collective don’t accept private insurance but refer people to places in Peekskill what do accept insurance such as: 

LifeStance (formerly Carmel Psychological), Andrus Mental Health Clinic, Mental Health Association Westchester, Family Services of Westchester, Westchester Jewish Community Services  CoveCare Center (formerly Putnam Family and Community Services) Guidance Center of Westchester, Open Path Collective (a website that matches you with sliding scale, low fee therapy $30-$60 per session)

There are some openings for the therapists who practice out of the Counseling Collective. They Collective can be reached at (914) 440-0402 or at counselingcollectivepeekskill.com