BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Erie County Medical Center hosted a suicide prevention training session Friday for employees as Mental Health Awareness Month draws to a close.

Doctors, nurses and other staff were on hand to learn techniques that can be used to identify and assess suicidal patients. 

Dr. Shawn Shea of the Training Institute of Suicidal Assessment and Clinical Interviewing says roughly 50 percent of people who commit suicide have seen a primary care physician or nurse within a month of the suicide. He says 20 percent have seen them within a week.

The training was geared toward medical professionals, but Shea said it applies outside the hospital.

“Clinicians, we’re just like you, we’re people, it’s scary to be talking to people about suicide, and it’s nice to say, here’s some specific techniques that I’ve learned, I’ve been trained in, there’s really good data," said Shea.

Associate Medical Director Michael Cummings said suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in the country for people between the ages of 10 and 34.

“It’s really a national epidemic. Being comfortable as a clinician, as a teacher, as a first responder, as a parent in broaching this subject with those around our lives and how to ask the questions and how to seek out help is really as important as any health initiative we have,” said Cummings. 

Cummings added that what makes suicide so prevalent is how subtle some warning signs can be.

“One of the big messages too is anytime someone has said something or done something that looks like they may be suicidal, really, you have to ask, you have to seek treatment, you have to explore that regardless of who we are. There’s no such thing as a non-important suicide attempt or suicidal statement,” said Cummings. 

Shae says that communication with friends or family is the best way to prevent suicide.  

“If you can sensitively and with a sense of compassion and good empathy and good hook up with people and they feel comfortable with you. If you can get them to share their extent of their thinking about it their planning on it, frequently that unburdens them dramatically, they find someone who can really listen to them,” said Shae. 

"The big take-home message is, you will not make someone suicidal by asking them about suicide, so don’t be afraid to ask those questions,” said Cummings.