Each September, National Suicide Prevention Month is a time to raise public awareness surrounding suicide. The month culminates in World Suicide Prevention Day, when individuals, organizations, and governments take steps to address the problem of suicide in their communities.
Sadly, approximately 48,000 people in the United States die by suicide each year, and there are about 1.4 million attempted suicides in the U.S. annually. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Instances of suicide are more widespread than many people think, and suicide has left many families devasted.
In this article and in honor of National Suicide Prevention Month, we discuss the common causes of suicide and ways to recognize when a person is at risk of suicide. Importantly, we also share actionable steps that a person can take to raise awareness of suicide-related issues.
Causes and warning signs of suicide
When individuals face stress, depression, or overwhelming life events, they may feel isolated and desperate for change. Unfortunately, sometimes a person mistakes suicide as a way out of their current situation. In those situations, the person incorrectly assumes that help - both from friends or professionals - is inaccessible or that they are unable to improve their situation.
One of the most critical steps for preventing suicide is noticing when a person is at-risk. When a person is at risk of suicide, they may show noticeable warning signs. Warning signs may include:
- The person talks about death or focuses on death repeatedly. The person may say to others that they wish they were not alive or make claims that they want to kill themselves. Regardless of the person’s tone when they make such claims, the person’s friends and family must take claims of that nature seriously.
- The person may engage in risky, dangerous, or self-destructive behavior. This behavior may include patterns of substance abuse or repeated instances of potentially dangerous sexual contact. The person may also withdraw from their social groups and stop attending social events.
- The person may show signs of depression or other mental health conditions, including changes in sleeping patterns, increased irritability, and mood swings.
While the above warning signs of suicide are important to understand, some at-risk individuals do not necessarily display clear warning signs. At-risk individuals may show symptoms of suicide in unique or subtle ways, and accordingly, it is important to stay mindful of the mental health of people in your life. To learn more about preventing suicide, check out the list of effective suicide prevention strategies from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.
What to do if you or a loved one has suicidal thoughts
If you or a loved one is thinking of suicide or appears to be at risk of suicide, know that personalized help is immediately accessible to everyone. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Call the number at any time, and a trained professional will provide free and confidential support. Often, discussing one’s thoughts and feelings with another person can provide enormous relief.
While the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7, it is important to know that a person at risk of suicide can sometimes be in immediate danger. If a person is in immediate danger or is likely to hurt themselves or others in the near term, please call 911 immediately. First responders can provide the in-person assistance that you or a loved one may need.
How to participate in National Suicide Prevention Month
One of the best ways to participate in National Suicide Prevention Month is to take a moment to reflect on your mental health and the mental health of those around you. As mentioned, while some people show warning signs of suicide, other people’s struggles are less noticeable. It may take a close friend or family member to recognize when a person is struggling with his mental health, and a simple conversion can go a long way.
Another way to participate in National Suicide Prevention Month is by raising awareness via social media. Several organizations have ready-to-go suicide awareness graphics for National Suicide Prevention Month, and you can share those graphics with your friends and followers online. While sharing social media content is a simple action, it can have a significant impact if it helps an at-risk person understand that help is available.
How Aurora Behavioral Health System Can Help
If left untreated, depression and other mental health conditions can lead to instances of suicide. When people struggle with their mental health, they may feel overwhelmed and incorrectly think that suicide is their only way out of their current situation. Fortunately, clinical professionals can help people control their mental health conditions and help prevent suicide.