Insight Behavioral Health – Saturday, September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day – an annual commitment to raising awareness about suicide, reducing the stigma of mental health, and remembering those affected by one of the leading causes of death worldwide. In the United States, suicide is a growing problem and the numbers tell an alarming story. According to the United Health Foundation, the suicide death rate increased 33% between 1999 and 2019 in the United States.
In 2020, there were approximately 46,000 suicide deaths, making it the 12th-leading cause of death in the U.S. That same year, 12.2 million adults seriously considered suicide, 3.2 million made a plan, and 1.2 million attempted suicide, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Among young people ages 15 to 24, suicide is the second-leading cause of death in the U.S., with nearly 20% of high school students reporting serious thoughts of suicide.
Although these numbers are frightening, there are many reasons to be hopeful. By being open about mental health and sharing our stories, raising awareness, understanding warning signs, and knowing what resources are available, we can make a big impact in preventing suicide in our local communities and around the world.
What is World Suicide Prevention Day?
World Suicide Prevention Day was first introduced in 2003 by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) with a mission to spread the word that suicide is preventable. This year’s message is Creating Hope Through Action, highlighting how we can be a “beacon of light” to those in pain by encouraging understanding, reaching out to those in need, and giving our friends and family confidence to take action.
In order to support these efforts, it is important to be knowledgeable about the warning signs and risk factors we may encounter. We must also have the skills to take action if we recognize signs of depression, self-harm, or suicidal thought. By working to eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness and encouraging healthy discourse on sensitive, complicated topics, each of us can make a meaningful impact in preventing suicide and suicidal behaviors in our local communities.
Know the Warning Signs of Suicide
Although it is not always obvious someone is struggling with suicidal thoughts, there are some common warning signs to be aware of. A person talking about wanting to die, experiencing intense guilt or shame, or expressing concern of being a burden to others are all common signs someone is thinking about suicide. Feelings of hopelessness, being trapped, extreme sadness, and unbearable emotional or physical pain are also notable warning signs. Finally, changes in behavior may also be indicative of suicidal thoughts. This includes making plans or researching ways to die, withdrawing from family and friends, engaging in dangerous behaviors, noticeable changes in eating or sleeping, and an increase in drug or alcohol use.
Know the Risk Factors of Suicide
Thoughts of suicide can impact any person, anywhere in the world. However, there are some groups in the United States that are at greater risk for a variety of reasons. The people in the following groups are more at risk of suicide.
- American Indians
- Young People
- Older People
- Loss Survivors
- Sexually and Gender-Diverse People
- People With Mental Illness
- People With Family History of Suicide
- Previous Suicidal Behavior
Know When to Reach Out
It can be difficult to know when an individual may be thinking about suicide, but engaged friends and family play a key role in supporting those facing these struggles. Pay attention to behavioral changes, thoughts of hopelessness, increases in stress, lack of interest in activities, and trouble completing daily tasks. These all may be indicators of a worsening mental health issue.
Conversations are important and could save a life if someone is having suicidal thoughts. Although it is a common misconception, discussing the topic will not be the cause of someone’s suicide. It may seem awkward or difficult to engage in conversation, but something as basic as ‘How are you doing?’ or ‘I’m worried about you’ can foster dialogue and help someone struggling with isolation or hopelessness. If you suspect someone is at risk, stay calm and be attentive. One of the best things you can do is to simply listen without offering advice or passing judgment.
We all experience feelings differently, so let them share their thoughts at their own comfort level. After the conversation, offer to help them find professional assistance and be sure to check in with them periodically.
It is also important to remember that if a person is attempting suicide, aggressive, or threatening, keep yourself safe, dial 911, and don’t leave them alone.
Know Your Resources
If you are in crisis or know someone who needs help, there are many free resources available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The following are just a few of the leading organizations and resources you should keep in mind in the event of a mental health crisis:
- Dial 911 if you are in immediate danger.
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline: Call or text 988 to connect with the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. You can also visit their website to chat.
- Crisis Text Line: Text 741741 anywhere in the U.S. to connect with a crisis counselor.
- Trevor Project Lifeline: The Trevor Project is a national organization that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) people under 25. Call 1-866-488-7386, text START to 678678, or chat online.
- Veterans Crisis Line: The Veterans Crisis Line is a free resource specializing in helping veterans of all ages and circumstances. If you’re a veteran in crisis or are concerned about one, call 988 (then press 1), text 838255, or chat online.
- National Alliance for Suicide Prevention Resources: This website supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers a wide range of information for suicide prevention, including available community and healthcare resources.
- Local Mental Health Professionals: Local mental health resources, such as Insight Behavioral Health, allow people to receive direct support from mental health professionals in their own communities, accurate diagnosis and treatment, and a sense of belonging through one-on-one interactions.
Suicide is an unpleasant topic to broach, but one that must be discussed openly and honestly. As we recognize World Suicide Prevention Day, it is important to remember the signs and risk factors of suicide and how to take action to help someone you love, or even yourself. While a suicidal person may not directly ask for help, it doesn’t mean they don’t want it. This year, be a “beacon of light” by being open with mental health and reaching out to friends and family in need. To learn more about Insight Behavioral Health and our services or to schedule an appointment, visit us online or call (810) 275-9333.