September is National Suicide Prevention Month
September is National Suicide Prevention Month. All month, mental health advocates, prevention organizations, survivors, allies, and community members unite to promote suicide prevention awareness.
Suicide and suicidal thoughts are an issue that affects many people. Consider the following statistics:
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
- On average, there are 129 suicides per day.
- In 2017, there were an estimated 1,400,000 suicide attempts.
Suicidal thoughts, much like mental health conditions, can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, or background. In fact, suicide is often the result of an untreated mental health condition. Suicidal thoughts, although common, should not be considered normal and often indicate more serious issues.
How can you help? To start, it’s important to know the warning signs of someone experiencing suicidal thoughts, such as:
- Threats or comments about killing themselves (even if they don’t seem serious about it)
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Mentioning feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated from others
- And more here.
It’s also important to understand what the risk factors are that might lead to suicide. While mental health conditions are a big factor, research has shown that 54 percent of people who die by suicide did not have a known mental health condition.
A number of the risk factors that are often associated with suicide include:
- Family history of suicide or child maltreatment
- History of mental disorders, particularly clinical depression
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
- Isolation, a feeling of being cut off from people
- Barriers to accessing mental health treatment
- Physical illnesses
- Loss (relational, social, work or financial)
- Cultural or religious beliefs (such as suicide being a noble resolution to a personal dilemma)
- And more here.
Knowing these warning signs and risk factors, what should you do if you or someone you know is contemplating suicide? Here are some tips:
- If someone says he or she is thinking of suicide or behaves in a way that makes you think the person may be suicidal, don’t downplay it or ignore the situation.
- Call 911 immediately in the case of a serious emergency.
- Encourage the person to call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
- Get help from a trained professional if you feel the risk is high.
- Speak up and show that you care for those whom you feel are at risk of suicide. Ask what you can do to help or invite them to do some fun activities with you to help brighten their day and show that they’re not alone.
- Be respectful and acknowledge their feelings.
- DO NOT tell them to “just cheer up” (or something along that line of thinking). Many people who are experiencing suicidal thoughts will take this as being told their feelings aren’t serious and that they’re “just in a bad mood.”
- Encourage the person to avoid the use of drugs and alcohol, which can increase suicidal thoughts.
While suicide prevention is important to address year-round, National Suicide Prevention Month provides a dedicated time to come together with collective passion and strength around a difficult topic. We can all benefit from honest conversations about mental health conditions and suicide because just one conversation can change a life.