September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, call or text 988 immediately. You can chat the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988lifeline.org if talking on the phone is hard. You can visit my resources page for convenient numbers.
For those of you who did not know, September is Suicide Prevention Month. A whole month focused on raising awareness on suicide and discussing ways we can all work together to prevent suicide. If you are reading this, then you likely know that suicide is often a product of incomprehensible pain and suffering, and results in the heavy grief that suicide leaves in its wake.
As a licensed clinical social worker, friend, sibling, and fellow human being, I know that even the most radiant individuals attempt and die by suicide. Where others may see statistics and news headlines, I recall names and faces of those lives lost. It is this reason why we take time and make an effort to talk about suicide, learn how to spot warning signs, and help where we can in order to save people’s lives.
79% of all people who die by suicide are male.
Although more women than men attempt suicide, men are 4x more likely to die by suicide.
Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10–14 and the 3rd leading cause of death among people aged 15-24 in the U.S.
Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death overall in the U.S.
46% of people who die by suicide had a diagnosed mental health condition - but research shows that 90% may have experienced symptoms of a mental health condition.
Annual prevalence of serious thoughts of suicide, by U.S. demographic group:
4.9% of all adults
11.3% of young adults aged 18-25
18.8% of high school students
45% of LGBTQ youth
The highest rates of suicide in the U.S. are among American Indian/Alaska Natives followed by non-Hispanic whites.
Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are nearly 4x more likely to attempt suicide than straight youth.
Transgender adults are nearly 9x more likely to attempt suicide than the general population.
Suicide is the leading cause of death for people held in local jails.
Data from CDC, NIMH and other select sources.
It’s crucial to recognize what these statistics represent… They represent individuals. Individuals who were struggling and did not know where to turn or where to get help. Individuals who MUST be remembered for the strength, courage, and bravery they had even in their lowest moments of their lives. Individuals whose life has and will continue to impact so many other individuals. When we look at statistics it’s so easy for us to separate ourselves from it because we read a number on a page, and we don’t have to look at the truth. But these are not just numbers. These are people we are talking about; people like you and me. And when we begin to see them as people the conversation around suicide prevention changes. We begin to notice how prevalent the stigma is surrounding mental health and suicide and how important accessible quality mental health services are. When we see these statistics as people, we begin to have more conversations surrounding mental health and suicide because it is too important not to. So how do we make changes?
We first need to remove the stigma of talking about suicide by treating it as a public health crisis. We need to incorporate public advocacy and learning across all professions and systems in order to make the most impact. Depression and suicidal ideation screening should be conducted in every primary care visit, and the doctors and nurses need to be trained effectively on how to help those in need in a trauma-informed manner.
We need to know the warning signs of suicide. This includes talking about wanting to die, feeling like a burden to others, or making jokes about death. Withdrawing from friends and family, giving away important items, engaging in risky behaviors, using drugs or alcohol more often, or big shifts in mood could be warning signs. There are many risk factors to suicide and this is not an extensive list, so I encourage you to do more research.
Reach out and offer help to people. Don’t be afraid to ask someone how they are feeling and if something is wrong. Research shows that people who are having thoughts of suicide feel relief when someone asks after them in a caring way if they are having those thoughts. When we acknowledge and talk about suicide, it can reduce the ideation for people because they know they are not alone to carry everything. Remember, listen without judgement! This is such a vulnerable thing to share with someone and it needs to be heard in a safe and comforting way.
Ways to get help. Sometimes we can others by just being there with them and holding a safe space without judgment. Make sure they have crisis numbers stored in their phone, offer support in going to a provider with them, or even calling 988 yourself to get advice and help with how to move forward. When we create support networks of various resources and individuals they can reach out to, it can help to reduce feelings of hopelessness for the individual. And lastly, helping the individual get connected with therapy services is an invaluable resource for them to heal and make lasting change in their lives.
The National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: Call or text 988
Online chat at: 988lifeline.org
Crisis Text Line: Text TALK to 741-741 to text with a trained crisis counselor from the Crisis Text Line for free, 24/7
Veterans Crisis Line: Send a text to 838255
SAMHSA Treatment Referral Hotline (Substance Abuse): 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474
The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386
If you would like to learn more about how I could help you work through suicidal thoughts and feelings, please reach out to me. I have a lot of experience around helping folx with suicidal thoughts and feelings, and I have a deep understanding of how this feels. You are not alone in this world even when it feels like you are. I am always here to be a safe space for you to talk about the hard things, and to support you on the healing journey. I cannot tell you enough that you are valuable to this world, and we need you here. You belong here and are safe here.