September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness month, a time where communities come together and share their stories and resources to help spread awareness about suicide in the hope of preventing another individual from taking their life. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), more than 45,000 individuals die by suicide each year, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death among adults in the United States and the second leading cause of death among individuals 10-24 years of age. Suicide is highly linked to mental health disorders such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, and depression and also affects individuals who are struggling with a substance abuse disorder or an eating disorder.
What can we do to prevent this?
These statistics may seem daunting but with the proper guidance and care, you can make a difference even if you are not a trained mental health professional. It is a fact of life that the human experience consists of triumphs and joy just as much as it involves emotional and psychic pains. Challenge the assumptions and biases you have about suicide and ask someone how they are doing. One of the most important things you can do is ask questions. Kevin Hines, one of 36 survivors of a suicide attempt off the Golden Gate Bridge, shares his thoughts as he pondered jumping. In his mind, he made a bargain that if at least one person stopped and asked him how he was doing then he would not jump. No one did. So, even if it is a stranger and even if you are scared, stop and ask if there is anything you can do for that person who might be sitting in the coffee shop crying or the student in the classroom with the hoodie pulled over their head.
You can find out more about Kevin Hines and his story here.
Every one of us is likely to have close contact with a person who is suicidal. This means family and friends need to play a role in detecting suicide risk and supporting the person. The American Association of Suicidology advocates asking a person directly if they exhibit warning signs of suicide.
Potential Warning Signs:
- Threatening to hurt or kill themselves, or talking or wanting to hurt or kill themselves
- Looking for ways to kill themselves by seeking access to firearms, pills, or other means
- Talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide, when these actions are out of the ordinary
- Increased substance (alcohol or drug) use
- No reason for living; no sense of purpose in life
- Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all of the time
- Feeling trapped, like there’s no way out
- Withdrawal from friends, family, and society
- Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
- Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
- Dramatic mood changes
- Giving away prized possessions or seeking long-term care for pets
Know the signs, be aware, ask questions, be kind, and seek professional help for you or for others. Learn more and get involved in advocating by checking out the resources below.
9-8-8, the mental health equivalent of 9-1-1 is now live. This hotline is available 24/7 and connects you with a compassionate and trained mental health professional through call or text.
For LGBTQ+ youth, you can call The Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or thetrevorproject.org.
For Trans individuals, you can seek specialized support at Trans Lifeline at 1-877-565-8860 or translifeline.org.