Suicide Awareness Month: How to Help Those in Need

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suicide awareness month

For the entire month of September, prevention organizations, mental health advocates, allies, community members, and survivors work together to encourage awareness of suicide prevention.

This year, Suicide Prevention Week runs from September 5th to 11th. It’s a time for people to share stories and resources around suicide prevention awareness. It all culminates on Friday, September 10th, on World Suicide Prevention Day. It’s a day to remember people who have been affected by suicide and to bring attention to treating those in need.

Suicide Awareness Month

Suicide Awareness Month is an opportunity to open the conversation about suicide and suicide prevention, helping others heal and provide help to those in need. Mental health awareness and the prevention of suicide is an important topic that needs to be discussed. There are many risk factors and warning behaviors that can inform you if someone needs help.

Suicide in the United States

In the United States, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death. In 2019, there were around 1.38 million suicide attempts and 47,511 Americans died as a result of suicide. There is a higher rate of suicide with middle-aged white men, with men dying by suicide 3.63 times more frequently than women. White men also accounted for 69.38% of suicide-related deaths in 2019.

The average day sees around 130 deaths as a result of suicide. These numbers are alarmingly high, but studies show that suicide can be prevented. Knowing what warning signs and risk factors to look out for can have a profound effect on someone’s life.

Suicide Awareness Month – How You Can Help

While Suicide Awareness Month highlights suicide and brings awareness to the ongoing issue, there are things you can do all year long to help those in need. The goal of suicide prevention is to reduce or eliminate the factors that add to suicide risk and helping to protect people.

Risk Factors of Suicide

Risk factors for suicide include aspects of a person or his/her environment that cause increased levels of stress and/or emotional pain. Some of these risk factors may include:

  • Abuse or misuse of alcohol and/or drugs
  • Previous suicide attempt(s)
  • Mental disorders, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or anxiety disorders
  • Lack of mental health care
  • Chronic disability or disease
  • Having access to lethal methods
  • Stressful life events, such as divorce, job loss, or financial crisis
  • Knowing someone who has died by suicide
  • Abuse, trauma, or neglect

A person’s age group, sex, culture, or other characteristics will influence their risk factors. There is no one cause for suicide. When stress-related issues combine with health problems, it can cause extreme feelings of despair and hopelessness. When mental health problems such as anxiety or depression are left unaddressed, it can increase suicide risk. Actively managing mental health conditions will help people engage in their lives and learn how to cope with feelings of anguish.

Warning Behaviors

There are certain things to look out for when you may be worried that someone in your life may have suicidal thoughts:

  • Someone talking about feeling hopeless, feeling trapped, being a burden, or having no purpose in life
  • Behavior changes, especially if after a painful loss, change, or event
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Sudden interest/research into suicide methods
  • Increased use of drugs or alcohol
  • Fatigue
  • Saying goodbye to people or giving away possessions
  • Isolating themselves
  • Changes in their mood such as irritability, anxiety, shame, anger, or a sudden improvement
  • Aggression

If you notice any of these behaviors, speak to them immediately. Operate under the assumption that no one else will reach out.

How to Talk to Someone About Suicide

If you believe someone is at risk for suicide, have a private conversation with them. Let them speak and let them know that you care about them. Be direct with your questions and ask them if they have thoughts of hurting themself. Work with them to help with contacting their therapist or doctor or seeking help from someone else. Do not minimize their problems or try to give advice. Someone may tell you that they are considering taking their own life. If they do, stay with them, and take what they’re saying seriously. Keep them safe. Remove any lethal means from their surroundings and call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Stay with them, and ask them if they are willing to go with you to an emergency room or a mental health facility.

One of the most common warning signs of a risk is attempting suicide or talking about wanting to die or take their own life. If a person attempts or talks about attempting suicide they could be trying to tell those around them that they are suffering emotionally, but are unsure of how to address it or ask for help. They may view suicide as the only option to get out of how they are feeling or a certain situation that they are unsure of how to handle. No matter what, take it seriously and help them address their problems with mental health professionals.

Bring Attention with a Suicide Awareness Ribbon

Bringing awareness to the prevention of suicide is extremely important for helping those in need, whether they are a survivor or someone at risk. It is also important to reduce the stigma of mental illness and suicide so that people feel comfortable reaching out for help. Knowing what risk factors may contribute to a person’s suicidal inclination is vital information, especially when paired with certain warning behaviors. Being an advocate and an ally, and teaching others how to be one as well, can help save a life.

To bring awareness to Suicide Prevention Month, wear a ribbon in support of the cause.

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