In recent years in the U.S., deaths due to suicide have exceeded deaths due to motor vehicle accidents, stated a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) May 3, 2013 article (“Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report”). For example, in 2010, there were over 38,364 suicides compared to 33,687 motor vehicle crash-related deaths, added the CDC.
“Suicide is a tragedy that is far too common,” CDC Director Tom Frieden was quoted as saying in the 2013 article, highlighting the continuous need to develop suicide prevention programs.
- In the U.S., suicide is (at least) the 10th leading cause of death.
- Between 2001 and 2009, on average more than 1 person every 15 minutes committed suicide in the U.S.
- Approximately 1.1 million attempted suicide in the past year and approximately 8 million adults reported they seriously contemplated suicide.
“Suicide prevention strategies involve enhancing social support and community connectedness, improving access to mental health and preventive services, and reducing the stigma and barriers associated with seeking help,” adds the CDC article. Suicide intervention counselors are vital for helping prevent this common tragedy of self-inflicted death.
Suicide Intervention Counselors At a Glance
- Degree Level Requirements: Master’s Degree
- Licensure Requirements: Licensure required to practice officially as a counselor. Requirements vary by state. (Some related positions may not require licensure but will prefer it.)
- Specializations: Crisis Intervention, Link to Bullying, a particular Age Demographic, Substance Abuse, a particular Mental Illness, High Risk Populations etc.
- Median Annual Salaries: $40,080*
- Job Outlook: 37% growth from 2010 to 2020**
Career & Job Description
Suicide intervention counselors may go by various other names, such as “Suicide Prevention Counselor,” “Crisis Counselor” or “Mental Health Counselor”.
Suicide intervention/prevention counselors may work in private practice, for a health authority, at a university counseling center, for a non-profit organization, for community, social or government services, a mental health association, in corrections, for a judicial institution or service, for DoD or Veterans Affairs or even with a middle or high school.
Some duties of suicide intervention counselors include:
• Provide counseling and crisis intervention in person, over the phone and/or online.
• Perform clinical interviews and determine case history.
• Administer psychological/developmental evaluations and inventories.
• Work with a multidisciplinary healthcare and social service team to develop and deliver treatment plans.
• Constantly research extended resources and services, and make referrals when needed.
• Work with client/patient’s family or caregivers (and also doctors, social workers, etc) when appropriate.
• Develop and deliver suicide prevention workshops and outreach programs.
To be inspired by mental health professionals specialized in suicide prevention, check out HelpPRO Suicide Prevention Therapist Finder (which was launched in September 2013):
You’ll notice a variety of professionals work in suicide intervention, including counselors, psychologists, social workers and marriage & family therapists.
Specializations / Concentrations
Some counselors solely focus on suicide intervention; other counselors may treat clients and patients dealing with other issues as well, including dealing with the loss of someone to suicide, other forms of grief and bereavement, depression, PTSD, anxiety, stress management, abuse, trauma and other concerns.
Specifically related to suicide prevention/intervention, counseling concentrations include:
• Link to a specific mental illness (such as depression, bipolar disorder or anxiety)
• Suicide Contagion
• A particular Age Demographic
• Link to Bullying
• Substance Abuse/Addiction
• Link to Trauma
• High Risk Populations (such as veterans, men in midlife or older, First Nations, members of the LGBT community & individuals who have lost a loved one to suicide).
Explore Your Career Path
The Educational Journey
- Bachelor’s Degree: Relevant undergraduate degrees include a Bachelor of Psychology, Human Services, Social Work, Counseling and other related disciplines.
- Relevant Careers with a Bachelor’s Degree: Suicide/Crisis Hotline Representative (might have to start as a volunteer), Substance Abuse Counselor, Research Assistant, Psychiatric Technician, Social Worker Assistant, Community Support Worker, Geriatric Residential Counselor, Case Management Aide, Crisis Center Worker, Rehabilitation Advisor, Correctional Treatment Specialist… (Note that some positions might require previous experience or certification/licensure).
- Master’s Degree: Relevant graduate degrees include a Master’s in Counseling, Psychology, Counseling Psychology or a related Behavioral Health discipline. (Note that numerous suicide intervention positions are also open to social workers, which requires a Master’s of Social Work).
Generally speaking, to practice as a professional suicide intervention counselor, you must be licensed. (In cases where employers do not require it, they will still prefer you to be licensed).
Examples of relevant licenses include those held by LPCs (Licensed Professional Counselors), LMHC (Licensed Mental Health Counselors) LCPC (Licensed Clinical Professional Counselors) and LMFTs (Licensed Marriage & Family Therapists). Requirements, as well as licensure acronyms/titles vary from state to state. Generally to obtain a license you must have a Master’s degree, complete a defined number of supervised clinical hours and sit for a qualifying exam.
One way to find your state’s licensure/regulation board is to visit the National Board for Certified Counselors’ directory page: www.nbcc.org/directory.
Additionally, as a suicide intervention counselor, it’s a great idea to complete continuous education and certification courses, such as ASIST (applied suicide intervention skills training) to expand your expertise.
Suicide & Age Demographics
“Traditionally, suicide prevention efforts have been focused mostly on youths and older adults, but recent evidence suggests that there have been substantial increases in suicide rates among middle-aged adults in the United States ,” states the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) May 2013 article (“Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report”). The article shared that the suicide rate among those aged 35-64 increased by 28.4% between 1999 and 2010.
Even so, a January 2013 Medical News Today article (“Treated Teens Still Attempt Suicide”) suggested that suicide prevention should still be an emphasis among adolescent populations. The article shares that suicide is the third leading cause of death among teenagers.
- Reference & Data Information Provided by the Following:
- * May 2012 (for Mental Health Counselors, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
- ** May 2010 (for Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
- † Salary data from US BLS http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211014.htm
- ‡ Job Outlook data from US BLS http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm
- Other Sources/References