January 24, 2020

On a mission to prevent suicide

David Camplin, therapist and suicide prevention advocate, seeks to connect people with the right help at the right time.

Suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death in the United States across all ages and backgrounds, and it’s the 2nd-leading cause of death among children, teens, and young adults ages 10 to 34. David Camplin, director of mental health for Kaiser Permanente in Northern California, knows it doesn’t have to be this way.

What do you most want people to understand about suicide?

Suicide is completely preventable. Depression and suicidal thoughts are treatable conditions. Most people who receive treatment or support, or who survive a suicide attempt, don’t go on to die by suicide. If you’re having thoughts of harming yourself, you need to know you are not alone, and that help is available.

Many people wrestle with thoughts like these, and there is no shame in talking about these issues with your friends, family, or professionals and getting the help you need. There are people who care and want to help, so please don’t struggle alone.

David Camplin, therapist and suicide prevention advocate
David Camplin, director of mental health for Kaiser Permanente in Northern California

What resources are available for people dealing with suicidal thoughts?

If you need help right away, you can call 911 or walk into any emergency room. You can also contact a local mental health clinic, where staff members are trained to manage a crisis on the spot and then link people with the right kinds of services to follow up.

If you’re in crisis, or if you’re concerned about someone else, you can find a wealth of resources in the Get Help Now section of Kaiser Permanente’s Find Your Words website, which also includes educational information and personal stories of overcoming mental health challenges and building resilience. Also, Kaiser Permanente members should be aware that they don’t need a physician referral to receive mental health services.

What can people do to prepare in advance for difficult moments?

Safety plans have been shown to be one of the best and most effective deterrents in preventing suicide. A safety plan is simply a guide for writing down in advance specific steps you will take to protect yourself when you have suicidal thoughts. It involves identifying people you can reach out to when you need help, and “means restriction,” so if you’ve considered specific ways of harming yourself, you can make sure you don’t have access to them.

Why are suicide rates increasing among young people?

The pressures young people face in their peer circles, the increasing demands of our society, and struggles with disconnecting all add up to a more challenging childhood and adolescence than ever before. Our next generation needs comprehensive services to help support them through these challenges, and to give them every opportunity to connect with people who can help. At Kaiser Permanente, we’re expanding our programs and outreach to help young people who are dealing with these difficult issues. For example, Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theater program recently developed an interactive play and workshop called “Ghosted,” which addresses mental health needs and provides resources for teens and teachers.

What else is Kaiser Permanente doing as an organization to help prevent suicide?

Kaiser Permanente is committed to the national Zero Suicide framework, which is rooted in the belief that suicide is preventable when the right care and systems are in place. The Zero Suicide initiative emphasizes early screening and intervention, transitions of care, and then following up with patients for needed support. I'm on Kaiser Permanente’s national suicide prevention task force, and our current focus is to identify at-risk individuals so we can intervene early and often.

If people are struggling with suicidal thoughts, we want them to know they’re not alone. By sharing the challenges we all face, we can help lift each other up. When we work together, we can make a real difference when it comes to preventing suicide.

Help is available 24/7

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Crisis Text Line
Send the text message “HOME” to 741741

All calls and messages are confidential.