The World Health Organization reports that more than 700,000 people die each year from suicide and that for each suicide completed, there are 20 attempts. Suicides can be prevented, but often the risk factors are overlooked. This is one of the reasons that the month of September has been declared Suicide Prevention Month, with September 10 chosen as World Suicide Prevention Day.
Suicide Prevention Day
To raise awareness about suicide prevention, remember people lost to suicide, and show support to those who may be struggling with suicidal thoughts, the International Association for Suicide Prevention suggests the following activities on or near September 10:
- Light a candle in a window at 8pm
- Hold public events to engage people in conversation about suicide
- Reach out to elected officials to ask them to support initiatives that can decrease suicides
- Write articles to newspapers, magazines and other news sources, asking them to share more information about suicide prevention
- Share information on social media about ways people can get help if they are struggling, such as calling or texting 988
- Host trainings to help people become better aware of the signs of depression and suicidal thoughts.
Suicide Prevention Month
September is Suicide Prevention Month, so even if you aren’t able to participate in events on September 10, there are plenty of other days to get involved in raising awareness about suicide. The National Suicide Lifeline is using their BeThe1To campaign to try to get loved ones more involved in supporting their friends and family who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts. People can BeThe1To:
- Ask – There is a common misconception that asking people if they are suicidal will cause them to attempt suicide, but it is often the opposite. Asking people if they are having thoughts of ending their life might finally make them feel safe enough to ask for help.
- Be Present – By simply listening without judgment, you may be able to help someone feel less depressed, less suicidal, and less overwhelmed. Many people who experience suicidal ideation feel that confiding their pain to anyone is burdening that person. Your loved one may need reassurance that you want to support them and that they are worth your time and effort.
- Provide Safety – Once you know someone is feeling suicidal, you can help them create a plan to stay safe. By being physically present with them, removing items they would use to harm themselves, and guiding them to a crisis line, such as 988, you can help them see that they have other options. If their suicidal ideation includes a plan and intent to take action, they might also need you to help them safely get to a hospital or other inpatient setting.
- Connect – Your loved one might need help reaching out to other loved ones for support or finding a therapist who can help them through this difficult time. You can help them decide how to build their support team.
- Follow Up – Once you have helped someone through the immediate crisis of suicidal thoughts, it can be incredibly helpful to reach out again in the days and weeks that follow. They can also benefit tremendously from knowing that you care enough to remain in their life even after they have confided their wish to die. Should they have suicidal thoughts in the future, they will know that you are a safe person to come back to for help.
Who is at Risk?
While suicidal thoughts are not uncommon, they are generally a sign that something is wrong and should not be taken lightly. Anyone can experience suicidal thoughts, but certain groups are considered more at risk than others for making an attempt:
- Young people – Teenagers and young adults are more likely to impulsively act on thoughts of suicide and to have a hard time seeing how issues they are facing will ever be resolved.
- Indigenous populations – Native people around the world, including Native Americans, have higher rates of generational trauma and poverty and more difficulty accessing medical care, making them more likely to struggle and less likely to receive the support of medical or mental health professionals.
- LGBT individuals – Being stigmatized, bullied, harassed and marginalized for their sexual orientation or gender identity has made young people who are part of the LGBT community at especially high risk for suicidal thoughts and attempts.
If you or a loved one suffers from a mental health disorder that puts you in danger of suicide, please reach out to our caring professionals at Highland Hospital in West Virginia. We provide individualized assessments and evidence-based care.