September is National Suicide Prevention Month, a campaign to promote suicide prevention and awareness. Mental health advocates, prevention organizations, survivors, and allied community members unite to spread a message of hope and healing for all those affected by suicide.
Suicide is death caused by self-injury made with fatal intent. A suicide attempt happens when someone makes the effort to end their life but survives despite their actions. Suicidal ideation refers to having thoughts and considerations or making a plan to attempt suicide. Suicide prevention and treatment is an important part of combatting the growing problem.
The statistics provide a sobering picture of how extensive the problem is. Rates increased 33% between 1999 and 2019 revealing the growth of the problem over time. A total of 47,511 people lost their lives to suicide in 2019, or 130 people every day of the year.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for people of all ages in the United States. But it’s the second leading cause of death for adolescents and young adults between the ages of 10 and 34. Additionally, rates of suicide among males were 3.7 times higher than among females in 2019.
Suicidal ideation is another alarming statistic to look at. Not everyone who considers suicide acts on their thoughts. Suicide rates alone are shocking but the rates of those who think about it are even more distressing. 12 million adults in the U.S. reported having serious thoughts of suicide. Of those adults, 3.5 million made plans for an attempt and 1.4 million followed through on their plan.
Whether you’ve been personally affected by suicide or know someone who has, knowing more about suicide and its signs can help. What can you do within your community this September to increase awareness during Suicide Prevention Month?
Suicide is a complicated and tragic condition, but suicide can be preventable when you know what to look for. Risk factors of suicide include things about a person or their environment that increase their chances of losing their lives to suicide.
How do you know whether someone is considering suicide? Many people suffer in silence and hesitate to let anyone know what’s going on in their minds. This aspect is a large part of why suicidal ideation is such a difficult condition to recognize at times. Still, effective suicide prevention seeks to look for risk factors and warning signs. These include:
- Past suicide attempt(s)
- Misusing or abusing alcohol or drugs
- Social isolation
- Mental illness (i.e., depression, anxiety, other mood disorders)
- Chronic disability or disease
- Knowing someone who lost their life to suicide (especially a family member)
- Limited or lack of access to mental or behavioral health care
- Access to lethal means
Certain portions of the population also experience unique risk factors. For example, risk varies among different age groups, cultures, sexes, and more. These unique risks include things like:
- Men experiencing stressors that challenge traditional male roles, such as unemployment or divorce
- Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth or young adults who face discrimination, rejection, or violence from their family members or peers
- American Indians and Alaskan Natives who experienced historical trauma, including resettlement, destruction of cultures, and ruined economies
Not everyone experiencing suicidal ideation will be open about their thoughts. People who are serious about their plans are unlikely to discuss them with anyone else. However, even when someone isn’t open about their struggle, there are still some warning signs you can look for. Some of the signs that someone may be in immediate danger for an attempt include:
- Participating in extremely risky behavior, such as abusing drugs or driving too fast
- Talking about wanting to die or take their life
- Talking about feeling trapped in their life or certain experiences and feeling like there’s no escape
- Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live
- Talking about feeling like a burden to the people around them
- Experiencing unbearable physical or emotional pain for long periods
- Giving away prized or other important possessions
- Creating a will or putting their affairs in order
- Withdrawing from or saying goodbye to friends, family, and other loved ones
- Frequently talking or thinking about death
Increasing Awareness During Suicide Prevention Month
There are many events throughout September to recognize the importance of Suicide Prevention Month. September 5 through 11 is recognized as National Prevention Week, a time to share stories, experiences, and research to promote suicide prevention. September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day where the focus shifts recognizing and remembering those directly affected by suicide.
Dozens of organizations come together to raise awareness during September. This year, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is centered around the message of #BeThe1To. The organization encourages everyone to step up and be someone who pays attention to their loved ones, knows how to recognize warning signs, and is willing to communicate any concerns they have.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is another organization dedicated to raising awareness. Every September they host Out of the Darkness Community Walks in more than 400 communities across the country. Participating as a walker or a volunteer in a local AFSP walk is a great way to get involved in your community.
If you’re looking for more ways to increase awareness and show support in your area, the Suicide Prevention Resource Center compiled a thorough list of action ideas. Effective involvement starts with understanding the risks and signs and then sharing that knowledge with others around you. The more awareness your community has, the more likely you are to make a difference for those struggling in silence.
Suicide Prevention Month is an important springboard for people to open up to the complicated but necessary conversation. The more you know about suicide prevention, the better equipped you are to be there when someone is in need. You can be the one to ask if they’re okay, to be there when they need help, stay connected with them during their struggles, and connect them with more in-depth services when necessary.
Effective Suicide Prevention
It’s important to be careful about the language you use when talking about suicide. Using terms like “committing suicide,” “successful suicide,” or “failed suicide attempt” carry incredibly negative meanings. Knowing how to communicate about the condition while using compassionate language is a vital part of effective suicide prevention.
Learning the risk factors and recognizing the signs of suicidal ideation are important ways to increase your awareness. Effective prevention can only happen when you’re aware of what to look for. When you’re informed about the subtle signals that there may be a problem, you’re more likely to know whether someone is struggling and needs help.
It’s okay to ask some if they’re okay as long as you approach them with kindness, support, and understanding. Having someone who listens without judgment makes an incredible difference for people who are battling in silence.
If you’re concerned someone is a danger to themselves, effective suicide prevention also includes connecting higher levels of care. Mental health treatment facilities play a vital role in treating individuals battling suicidal ideation and any co-existing mental illness.
Pasadena Villa is a trusted treatment provider, providing compassionate care to those living with persistent mental illness. We provide supportive, understanding residential and transitional care through our network of psychiatric services. Our treatment methods are rooted heavily in our Social Integration Methodology and focused on helping your loved one learn to manage their struggles and succeed outside of treatment.
If you’re interested in learning more about our programs and services, fill out our contact form or give us a call today. Our admissions specialists will reach out, answer any questions you may have, and help you find the program that best suits your loved one’s needs!