September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are collectively experiencing greater trauma, loss and adverse circumstances that have nearly doubled the number of people experiencing depression and suicidal thoughts compared to previous years.
According to CDC reports:
Suicide rates have increased 33% since the beginning of the 21st century
12 million American adults seriously thought about suicide
5 million planned a suicide attempt
4 million attempted suicide
47,500 died by suicide, that is 1 death every 11 minutes
The numbers are even more staggering among teens:
Suicide rates among 10–17-year-olds have increased more than 70 percent in the past 10 years
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15–24-year-olds in the United States
Emergency room visits for suspected suicide attempts among 12–17-year-old girls increased by 50% during the pandemic
Now, more than ever before, it is important that we learn and understand the key elements of suicide prevention:
Recognizing the warning signs
Knowing the risk factors
Implementing protective factors
Responding in a time of need
Recognizing the Warning Signs
Suicide prevention begins with recognizing the warning signs and taking them seriously.
Talking about or threatening to hurt or kill him/herself
Seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other lethal means
Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide, when these actions are out of the ordinary
Increased substance (drinking or drug) use
No sense of purpose in life, no reason for living
Increased anxiety and/or agitation
Change in sleeping habits, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
Feeling trapped, like there is no way out
Withdrawn from friends, family, and society
Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities
Dramatic mood changes
Giving away prized possessions
Seeking long-term care for pets.
Knowing the Risk Factors
A combination of factors can contribute to the risk of suicide. These risk factors can increase the possibility of suicide but might not be the direct cause.
Previous suicide attempt
Mental illness, such as depression
Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
Job problems or loss
Substance use: Drugs can create mental highs and lows that worsen suicidal thoughts.
Intoxication: More than 1 in 3 people who die from suicide are under the influence of drinking at the time of death
Adverse childhood experiences such as child abuse and neglect
Family history of suicide
Relationship problems such as a break-up, violence, or loss
Barriers to health care
Cultural and religious beliefs such as a belief that suicide is noble resolution of a personal problem
Suicide cluster in the community
Stigma associated with mental illness or help-seeking
Easy access to lethal means among people at risk (e.g., firearms, medications)
Unsafe media portrayals of suicide
Implementing Protective Factors
Just as exercise and a healthy diet can guard against certain health issues, protective factors can help buffer individuals against suicidal thoughts and behaviors
Coping and problem-solving skills
Cultural and religious beliefs that discourage suicide
Connections to friends, family, and community support
Supportive relationships with care providers
Availability of physical and mental health care
Limited access to lethal means among people at risk
Responding in a Time of Need
If you notice someone is exhibiting any of the warning signs, you can help! Research has found that asking someone whether they’re having suicidal thoughts does not give them suicidal tendencies. The actual risk is not talking about suicide with someone who may be in crisis.
ASK: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It’s not an easy question, but studies show that asking at-risk individuals if they are suicidal does not increase suicides or suicidal thoughts.
KEEP THEM SAFE: Reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal items or places is an important part of suicide prevention. While this is not always easy, asking if the at-risk person has a plan and removing or disabling the lethal means can make a difference.
BE THERE: Listen carefully and learn what the individual is thinking and feeling. Research suggests acknowledging and talking about suicide may reduce rather than increase suicidal thoughts.
HELP THEM CONNECT: Save the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s (1-800-273-TALK (8255)) and the Crisis Text Line’s number (741741) in your phone, so it’s there when you need it. You can also help make a connection with a trusted individual like a family member, friend, spiritual advisor, or mental health professional.
STAY CONNECTED: Staying in touch after a crisis or after being discharged from care can make a difference. Studies have shown the number of suicide deaths goes down when someone follows up with the at-risk person.
Receiving Additional Training
The Summit is a leading catalyst in normalizing the conversation surrounding mental health and suicide prevention through engaging community leaders and families in an on-going dialogue and facilitating workshops in our schools, churches, businesses, and community at large.
Signs of Suicide: Trusted Adult This workshop is designed to educate and train adults that interface with middle and high school students.
Soul Shop for Faith Leaders & Soul Shop for Youth Leaders A faith-based workshop aimed for individuals who work with adults and youth. This will equip leaders to recognize warnings signs of suicide, engaging in life saving conversations and ways to keep suicidal individuals safe. Soul Shop also provides practical ways to integrate the material into lesson plans and activities. Great for youth group leaders, faith-based counselors, or volunteers working in a religious capacity.
Question Persuade Respond (QPR) Just like CPR, QPR is an emergency response to someone in crisis and can save lives. QPR is the most widely taught Gatekeeper training in the world. The signs of crisis are all around us. We believe that quality education empowers all people, regardless of their background, to make a positive difference in the life of someone they know.
Are you or a loved one struggling with depression, anxiety or suicidal ideation?