Suicide Prevention and What We Can Do to Help Save Lives by Tammy Barrett

Suicide Prevention will not be adequately addressed until Kentuckians step forward and stop looking at mental health as a taboo topic. We have a stigma around mental health that is costing people their lives.

Additional steps we can take are:

  • Implementing a safe environment for anyone who may be at risk. Simple measures like storing firearms and medications in a safe manner are measures that we can all take. Firearms are the most used means of deaths by suicide in KY. Often people believe hiding a firearm is adequate, or that teaching gun safety is enough, that is not true. However, using gun locks or storing guns and ammunition separately has been proven to decrease deaths by suicide.

  • Encourage schools to implement a curriculum such as Sources of Strength. Sources of Strength is an evidenced based program that not only builds resiliency but decreases risky behaviors, including suicide.

  • At home: Talk to the youth in your life, open the lines of communication so they have a safe place to go, this helps in building resiliency so they can overcome situations in life that may otherwise place them at risk.

  • Know the warning signs and risk factors.

  • Practice self-care. Please talk to someone if you feel depressed or hopeless. Help is available. Call: 1-800- 273-8255 or Text “Help or Connect” to: 741-741. (I encourage you to place these numbers in your phone so that you always have them.)

My team and I work collaboratively with 14 Regional Prevention Centers as well as a vast number of community agencies to offer prevention and postvention services. We can assist in linking you up with trainings such as QPR that are offered across the state at no cost.

(QPR (Question, Persuade, and Refer) Gatekeeper Training for Suicide Prevention is a 1-2 hour educational program designed to teach lay and professional "gatekeepers" the warning signs of a suicide crisis and how to respond.)

To request additional information, resources, or a training please contact me at:

*For a list of warning signs and risk factors please review the information from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) that is listed below.

Suicide Warning Signs (AFSP)

Something to look out for when concerned that a person may be suicidal is a change in behavior or the presence of entirely new behaviors. This is of sharpest concern if the new or changed behavior is related to a painful event, loss, or change. Most people who take their lives exhibit one or more warning signs, either through what they say or what they do.


If a person talks about:

  • Killing themselves

  • Feeling hopeless

  • Having no reason to live

  • Being a burden to others

  • Feeling trapped

  • Unbearable pain


Behaviors that may signal risk, especially if related to a painful event, loss or change:

  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs

  • Looking for a way to end their lives, such as searching online for methods

  • Withdrawing from activities

  • Isolating from family and friends

  • Sleeping too much or too little

  • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye

  • Giving away prized possessions

  • Aggression

  • Fatigue


People who are considering suicide often display one or more of the following moods:

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Loss of interest

  • Irritability

  • Humiliation/Shame

  • Agitation/Anger

  • Relief/Sudden Improvement

Suicide Risk Factors

Risk factors are characteristics or conditions that increase the chance that a person may try to take their life.

Health Factors

  • Mental health conditions

  • Depression

  • Substance use problems

  • Bipolar disorder

  • Schizophrenia

  • Personality traits of aggression, mood changes and poor relationships

  • Conduct disorder

  • Anxiety disorders

  • Serious physical health conditions including pain

  • Traumatic brain injury

Environmental Factors

  • Access to lethal means including firearms and drugs

  • Prolonged stress, such as harassment, bullying, relationship problems or unemployment

  • Stressful life events, like rejection, divorce, financial crisis, other life transitions or loss

  • Exposure to another person’s suicide, or to graphic or sensationalized accounts of suicide

Historical Factors

  • Previous suicide attempts

  • Family history of suicide

  • Childhood abuse, neglect or trauma

Tammy Barrett, HFA, HSS

State Suicide Prevention Coordinator

Behavioral Health Prevention & Promotion Branch

Cabinet for Health & Family Services, BH/DID

Division of Behavioral Health

275 E. Main St., 4-WG

Frankfort, KY 40621

Direct Line: 502-782-8150

Department website:

Nacional de Prevencion del Suicidio 1-888-628-9454

Suicide Prevention Hotline for Deaf & Hard of Hearing 1-800-799-4889

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