Help and Hope for Those at Risk for Suicide

person sitting on the floor

A retired U.S. Army Major General and his staff help prevent suicide — one call at a time.

Suicide. It’s a scary word. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), close to 48,000 people in the U.S. died by suicide in 2020—that’s one person approximately every 11 minutes. You may have a family member or friend who is contemplating, or who has attempted, suicide—and chances are you don’t even realize it. There are several reasons for that.

  • The warning signs are not always clear—and not every person exhibits them.
  • The associated stigma is so widespread that many people in crisis are afraid or ashamed to reach out for help.
  • There’s often a very brief period between thought and action.

Studies have shown that nearly half of those who’ve attempted suicide did so within 10 minutes of first thinking about attempting.

Nobody knows this better than Mark A. Graham, a retired U.S. Army Major General who serves as Executive Director, Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care (UBHC) and RWJBH Behavioral Health and Addictions Services, National Call Center and Vets4Warriors, which includes the New Jersey Suicide Prevention Hopeline (NJ Hopeline). One of his sons died by suicide in 2003 and since then, Maj. Gen. Graham and his wife, Carol, have been tireless champions of efforts to promote suicide-prevention awareness.

One in five adults in the U.S. (nearly 53 million people) lives with a mental illness. Yet, it still is not widely acknowledged as “real” sickness.

“We’ve made some progress in changing that perception,” says Maj. Gen. Graham, “but we’re going to have the stigma until we make mental healthcare part of healthcare. Mental health is health.”

One of the goals of the NJ Hopeline, which launched a decade ago, is to make it easier for people contemplating suicide to seek help without fear of judgment. All NJ Hopeline employees have extensive training and are well prepared to help callers.

“During a crisis, quick access to support and care can prevent death by suicide,” says NJ Hopeline Program Director William Zimmerman. “We listen, support and assess people for needs. There’s no time limit for a call, and we’re available 24/7. If we can keep that person engaged and supported, the suicidal action may never happen,” he says.

Maj. Gen. Graham agrees. “The last thing we want to do is make a person regret that they called,” he says. “We want people to feel better, to know that there’s hope and help and that they ’re not alone.”

Learn more about suicide prevention.

Suicide Warning Signs

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, signs that a person may be thinking about suicide include:

Talking about:

  • Wanting to die
  • Great guilt or shame
  • Being a burden to others


  • Empty, hopeless, trapped or having no reason to live
  • Extremely sad, anxious, agitated or full of rage
  • Unbearable emotional or physical pain

Changing behavior:

  • Making a plan or researching ways to die
  • Withdrawing from friends, saying goodbye, giving away important items or making a will
  • Taking dangerous risks such as driving extremely fast
  • Displaying extreme mood swings
  • Eating or sleeping more or less
  • Using drugs or alcohol more often

If you or someone you know is experiencing warning signs of suicide, get help immediately. Call 988 or NJ Hopeline at 855-654-6735.