Monthly Archives: August 2020

National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

September is designated National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, with the week of September 6 – 12 National Prevention Week and September 10th World Suicide Prevention Day. During the month, suicide prevention organizations around the nation will be holding events to raise awareness of what has become the leading cause of preventable deaths in our country.

Suicide is a significant and often unaddressed public health problem in the U.S., and it’s getting worse. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are an average of 123 suicides each day, making it the tenth leading cause of death, and it is the second leading cause of death for ages 25-34 and third leading for ages 15-24 in this country. The CDC also reports that the rate of suicide has spiked by 35 percent since 1999.

Suicide doesn’t discriminate by race, age, gender, or ethnicity, notes the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The NIMH cites the following main risk factors for suicide:

• A prior suicide attempt
• Depression and other mental health disorders
• Substance abuse disorder
• Family history of mental health or substance abuse disorder
• Family history of suicide
• Family violence, including physical or sexual abuse
• Being between the ages of 15 and 34 years or over 60

Since late June, mental health professionals have been reporting a significant increase in depression and anxiety, with many mental health clinics overrun with new patients and increasing visits from existing patients. They are attributing this recent increase to the coronavirus pandemic. With daily doses of statistics of new virus cases and related deaths and record unemployment numbers, and increasing fear and isolation, mental health experts are growing concerned that the pandemic is pushing American into a mental health crisis.

The CDC found that about 41 percent of adults surveyed in late June “reported an adverse mental or behavioral health condition.” Additionally, this report shows that the number of Americans suffering from depression and anxiety has tripled compared to the same time last year. Approximately 1 in every 10 of the survey respondents indicated they’d started or increased their use of alcohol or elicit drugs, and twice as many respondents, as compared to this same time period in 2018, reported serious consideration of suicide.

These are extremely challenging times. But, we can all do our part during the month of September (and beyond) to help those in need by drawing attention to the problem of suicide and advocating the prevention of this terrible, preventable tragedy.

Here are a few suggestions:

1. Spread the Message – Spread awareness during the month of September by taking time to reach out to those in need via social media, wearing and sharing suicide prevention pins or starting your own suicide awareness and prevention campaign.

2. Volunteer – Volunteer at your local crisis center.

3. Record and Share a Supportive Video – This is an easy way to help that doesn’t cost money or time. Simply record a video promising your family and friends that you are there for them if they need to talk about anything. Then upload the video to your social media sites using hashtags such as #suicideispreventable #800273TALK.

If you are concerned that someone you know may be suicidal you should:

1. Ask the Tough Question – Even though it’s uncomfortable, be direct…ask them if they are thinking about suicide.

2. Listen – Be sure to let them know that you are there for them, day or night, and you want to hear and care about what they have to say.

3. Perform a Safety Check – If you’re concerned about their well-being, try to remove things in their immediate environment that they could use to harm themselves.

4. Don’t Keep This a Secret/Help Them Seek Professional Help – Let them know you will help them come up with a plan that involves finding and talking to a mental health professional.

Although these are great ways you can help all year-round, Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is the perfect time to get started! For free and confidential emotional support 24/7 for those in crisis or emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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