Saving Lives in Desperate Times

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Samaritans of NY Provides Free Guide on How to Help the Ones We Love and Care For

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"Most people, no matter what their education, training or experience, are uncomfortable talking about suicide, especially if it is with someone they know or care about" says Alan Ross, Executive Director of the Samaritans of New York

The Samaritans of New York, the non-profit organization that operates NYC’s confidential 24-hour suicide prevention hotline has just released a free Internet guide in response to these desperate times with so many people facing unemployment, layoffs, reductions in social services and closings of hospital and emergency rooms.

Listening to their callers every day, it’s no wonder that the number of people experiencing depression is increasing as are the rates of that most taboo of subjects, suicide.

It’s a sin, suicide. Considered so ghastly, you can’t be placed in hallowed ground; so heinous that, in ancient times, the suicide was buried at a crossroads, his survivors stripped of their lands, all their possessions and driven away as if they never existed.

And yet it is so common that more people take their own lives each year than are murdered by someone else. Twice as many people die from suicide than from AIDS. It touches people of every age, background, culture, social, religious and sexual persuasion.

It’s our grandmother who never got over the loss of her husband of 49 years and just wanders her silent apartment, lost and alone. It’s our son, struggling with the horrifying realization he is sexually attracted to one of his male schoolmates. Our older sister, sunshine and smiles on the surface, but in her mid-30’s, unmarried and terrified she is going to spend the rest of her life alone. Our boss whose recent financial setbacks and fear of losing his job have been accompanied by an inability to perform sexually. Our next-door neighbor, a police officer, whose constant struggle with alcohol is taking its toll especially late at night when he finds himself preoccupied with cleaning his gun. Our nephew, who was thought to be simply hyperactive but who, as he got older, is unable to hide the voices that tell him to do terrible things.

What to say and what to do when someone talks about suicide scares even the most experienced mental health professional, let alone the friend, family member or colleague who overhears someone talking at work.

But the Samaritans of New York, the people with the most experience in the world responding to those who are depressed, in crisis and suicidal has the answer. Based on their work operating NYC’s 24-hour suicide prevention hotline which has answered 1 million calls over the last 20 years, Samaritans has created a free guide that every person can use, lay or professional, caregiver or friend. It connects people with the latest information, the most effective methods of responding to people in crisis, clinical research, scholarly articles - Everything you need to know to help a person in their time of crisis. It’s free and immediately accessible on the Internet.

“Most people, no matter what their education, training or experience, are uncomfortable talking about suicide, especially if it is with someone they know or care about,” says Alan Ross, Executive Director of the Samaritans of New York which created this resource in response to the needs of the NYC caregivers and health providers who are seeing increasing numbers of people who are depressed and in crisis.

Samaritans Free Internet Guide to Suicide Prevention Materials and Resources provides family members, friends, lay and professional health providers in NYC with easy-to-access links to the best available information on suicide statistics, warning signs, risk factors, the keys to effective responses to high-risk individuals (including children, adolescents, adults, elderly, survivors, etc.), current research and major organizations that provide additional resources as well as references to the latest clinical studies and evidence-based programs, scholarly and practical articles of interest.

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People in distress can be helped. People who are suicidal don’t want to die they just cannot cope with the pain they are experiencing. The better we are at recognizing what causes depression and suicide, how to respond to someone in crisis and how to help, the more likely we are to save a life in these desperate times.

This project was made possible with funding from the New York City Council, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and the New York State Office of Mental Health.

About The Samaritans
The Samaritans of New York is the local branch of the international humanitarian movement with centers in 42 countries. A non-religious, non-profit organization, Samaritans is devoted to helping people who are in crisis and feeling suicidal. Volunteer-run programs practice a communications-based response called "befriending," which emphasizes listening to what a person in crisis is feeling and thinking without expressing personal judgments or opinions. The Samaritans 24-hour suicide prevention hotline is the city's only confidential hotline devoted to preventing suicide. It operates seven days a week and is staffed by volunteers who go through intensive training. For more information, visit


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Adrienne Rumble
The Samaritans of New York
(212) 677-3009
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