The truth of the matter is, everyone is affected by suicide. To help raise awareness and open the dialogue about this often stigmatized topic, September is recognized as National Suicide Prevention Month. Throughout the month, mental health advocates, survivors, and prevention organizations spread hope, raise awareness, and provide crucial information about suicide prevention.
Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S.
When it comes to suicide attempts, there is no complete data in the U.S., as many go unreported. However, the CDC gathers data regarding non-fatal injuries of self-harm, as well as voluntary survey data.
- The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. For younger individuals aged between 10 and 34, it increases to the 2nd cause of death.
- In 2018, over 48,000 Americans died by suicide, with 50% of those deaths involving firearms.
- It is estimated that in 2018, 1.4 million adults attempted suicide — or 0.5% of all adults aged 18 or older in the U.S.
- Since 1999, the overall suicide rate in the U.S. has increased by 35%.
- Over 50% of Americans know someone who has had suicidal thoughts, attempted suicide or completed suicide.
So, how can you help? You can start by raising awareness and by being open to talking with others about the topic of suicide. These conversations about emotional struggles and mental health go a long way to reduce the stigma that keeps many silent. By educating yourself on risk factors, warning signs and resources regarding suicide and suicide prevention, you can do your part to prevent suicide in our society.
Although it is commonly linked to depression, there isn’t one single cause or factor for suicide. Frequently, various stressors have built up over time. Many of those experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts can cover them up quite well. Much like other mental health conditions, suicide can affect anyone regardless of gender, age, or background.
Other risk factors for suicide include:
- Severe physical health conditions, including chronic pain
- Substance use disorders
- History of trauma or abuse (including childhood trauma)
- Traumatic brain injury
- Access to lethal means, such as firearms
- Chronic stress
- Previous suicide attempt(s)
- Family history of suicide
- Job or financial loss
- Lack of healthcare, especially mental health and substance abuse treatment
People who are experiencing suicidal thoughts often have noticeable changes in their behavior or act out of character. Knowing and recognizing these common warning signs is crucial to helping a loved one who may be considering suicide:
- Seriously talking or ‘joking’ about suicide
- Expressing hopelessness
- Saying they don’t have a reason to live
- Expressing that they feel like a burden to others
- Saying they feel “trapped”
- Talking about unbearable physical or emotional pain
- Giving away prized possessions
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- Acting agitated or anxious
- Sleeping unusually little or too much
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated
- Talking about seeking revenge or showing rage
- Having extreme mood swings
- Exhibiting risk-taking behaviors
- Showing lack of interest in the future
If you recognize these warning signs in someone you know, don’t hesitate to start a conversation with them about it. While these conversations can be difficult and painful, failing to intervene can place a person at a greater risk of attempting suicide. By reaching out, asking questions, and helping people connect to the appropriate resources, anyone can help prevent suicide, regardless of background or experience.
If you have lost a loved one to suicide, the impact can be intense and overwhelming. Know that you don’t have to cope alone. Working with a caring professional or joining a support group can help you heal and move forward.
Remember that depression is a serious mental health condition and should not be minimized. If you notice changes regarding your mental health, find someone you feel comfortable talking to, whether it be a parent, teacher, co-worker, family member, friend, mental health professional, or an emergency hotline.
Most importantly, know that you’re not alone on this journey, and there is help available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There is hope for a happier and healthier tomorrow.
If you or a loved one is in crisis or may be in danger, please do not hesitate to reach out for help.
Emergency: Call 911 immediately
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
National Hopeline Network: 1-800-SUICIDE (800-784-2433)
Crisis Text Line: Text “DESERVE” to 741-741
Self-Harm Hotline: 1-800-DONTCUT (1-800-366-8288)
American Association of Poison Control Centers: 1-800-222-1222
National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependency Hope Line: 1-800-622-2255