• Anna Wang

National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month


Written by Anna Wang


Introduction

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, a time to share resources and stories, as well as promote awareness of suicide prevention.


Statistics

  • There is an average of 130 suicides each day in the U.S.

  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people ages 10-14 and the 3rd leading cause of death among people ages 15-24 the U.S.

  • 79% of all people who die by suicide are male

  • Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are 4x more likely to attempt suicide than straight youth

  • Transgender adults are 9x more likely to attempt suicide than the general population

Risk Factors

There are characteristics and conditions that make it more likely for a person to consider, attempt, or die by suicide. It is important to note, however, that these risk factors do not cause or predict a suicide.

Several factors that contribute to risk include:

  • Previous suicide attempt

  • Family history of suicide

  • History of depression or other mental illnesses

  • Serious physical health conditions

  • Substance misuse

  • History of trauma or abuse

  • A recent tragedy or loss

  • Prolonged stress, such as bullying, unemployment, or relationship problems

  • Access to lethal means, including firearms and drugs

Protective Factors

  • Access to effective physical and mental healthcare

  • Feeling connected to others

  • Support by friends and family

  • Effective problem-solving and coping skills

  • Limited access to lethal means

  • Cultural and religious beliefs that encourage communication and seeking-help

Warning Signs

Immediate Risk

If you or a loved one starts to take any of these steps, immediately seek help from a mental health professional or call/text 998 (998 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline)

  • Looking for a way to kill oneself

  • Giving away possessions

  • Saying goodbye to friends and family

  • Tying up loose ends

  • Making amends

  • Having deep conversations randomly

  • Organizing personal papers (ex. will)

Serious Risk
  • Suicidal idealation

  • Comments about suicide that may start off seeming harmless (ex. “I wish I wasn’t here”), but can become dangerous over time

  • Increased alcohol and drug use

  • Withdrawal from other people

  • Reckless, impulsive, or aggressive behavior

  • Dramatic mood swings

  • Talking about being a burden to others

  • Sleeping too little or too much

Support

Some ways to offer support to someone that is having suicidal thoughts are:

  • Let them know they are not alone and you care about them

  • Empathize with them, but be aware you don’t know exactly what they are feeling

  • Be non-judgemental

  • Encourage them to seek help

  • Help them get professional help

  • Do not invalidate their feelings or experiences

If you’re unsure if someone is having suicidal thoughts, you can ask:

  • “Are you having thoughts about ending your life?”

Oftentimes, it is better to ask direct questions rather than vague ones, and better to address the person’s feelings rather than avoid them.


What won’t help someone who is feeling suicidal?

  • Tell them to “cheer up” or “look on the bright side”

  • Tell them they should be grateful for the life they have

  • Change the subject

  • Compare their situation to someone’s whose seems worse

  • Compare their feelings to your own experiences

These responses can make someone feel unheard, alone, criticized, or rejected.


A Crisis Plan

A crisis plan is a plan of action to support someone’s needs when they are in crisis.

Some things to include in a crisis plan are:

  • Removing objects that can be used to harm oneself from the home

  • Not leaving the person alone

  • Talking to a helpline or counselor

  • Including reasons to live (ex. pictures of family)

  • Names and contacts of the person that could help them

  • Distraction techniques

  • Take a walk/spend time in nature

  • Read a book or watch a tv show

  • Draw/paint

  • Spend time with a pet

Crisis Resources

24/7 Crisis Hotline: 998 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline:

Call or text 988

Chat at https://988lifeline.org/


24/7 Crisis Text Line:

https://www.crisistextline.org/

Text ‘TALK’ to 741-741


24/7 The Trevor Project:

Call at 1-866-488-7386

Text ‘START’ to 678-678

Chat at https://www.thetrevorproject.org/


Sources

https://save.org/about-suicide/warning-signs-risk-factors-protective-factors/

https://nami.org/Get-Involved/Awareness-Events/Suicide-Prevention-Awareness-Month-(SPAM)

https://afsp.org/suicide-prevention-resources

https://www.cdc.gov/suicide/factors/index.html

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