Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Suicide is a huge public health problem in the United States. Nearly 45,000 Americans die by suicide every year, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. These numbers could be even higher, considering that Mental Health stigma prevents many people from talking about their struggles with Depression Suicidal thoughts.
Suicide is often complex for people to understand; many struggle to grasp why a person might consider suicide. Most people who consider suicide suffer from severe depression; with that comes a great deal of pain and hopelessness and makes it very difficult for the person to see a way out of that pain other than ending their life.
This may seem like an impossible problem with no clear solution, but there are ways that we can all help to prevent suicide. The best way to prevent suicide is by learning the risk factors and warning signs, how you can help, and professional resources to refer someone if they are struggling with suicidal thoughts.
Risk Factors and Warning Signs
According to the CDC, there are several risk factors that we should all be aware of if we want to do our part to prevent suicide. Those risk factors come in 4 different categories, including individual, relationship, community, and societal risk factors.
Previous suicide attempt
Mental illness, such as depression
Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
Job problems or loss
Substance use disorder
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 a noble resolution of a personal problem
Suicide cluster in the community
The 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
There are also some common warning signs that most people who are considering suicide will give. You should make an effort to pay attention to these warning signs and take them seriously. Some of the most common warning signs are:
Feeling like a burden- when someone feels like their problems or their needs are too much for others in their lives to help them, and they don’t feel as if they are worth the effort or deserve help from the people who care about them.
Being Isolated- when a person chooses to withdraw from friends and family members and becomes more and more isolated. This can also look like a loss of interest or enjoyment of activities that they used to love.
Being Sad or Moody- when someone has been feeling depressed or having trouble with mood swings for a long time.
Sudden Calm- when someone has been struggling with depression and moodiness for an extended amount of time and then suddenly become very calm.
Changes in appearance- when someone who usually is very put together suddenly stops caring about how they look and stops taking care of their appearance.
Changes in sleep patterns- when someone starts sleeping much more or much less than they usually do.
Dangerous or self-harming behaviors- when someone starts behaving erratically and engaging in activities with a higher risk of harm such as drugs, unprotected sex, or taking unnecessary risks.
Feeling trapped or in deep despair- when someone feels as if there is no way out of their current circumstances or the struggles that they are dealing with, and it causes them to feel deep unbearable pain.
Recent trauma or life crisis- someone who has recently survived a trauma or is going through a crisis of some sort in their life.
Looking for ways to access lethal means- someone who is looking for ways to access a weapon, drugs, or other means of ending their life.
Making Plans for end of life - Someone who is putting their affairs in order, such as sorting out a will, cleaning out their living space, visiting loved ones, or giving away personal possessions.
Talking about Suicide or wanting to die- someone who is talking about wanting to end their life. Not everyone who commits suicide will tell someone they are thinking about it, and not all who speak of it will follow through, but every single threat of suicide should be taken seriously.
Ways to Help Prevent Suicide
Now that you know the risk factors and warning signs of suicide, let’s talk about some of the things you can do to help prevent suicide.
Develop your relationships- relationships with others help us lead healthier, happier, and more meaningful lives. This may look different for each person; some people need to maintain many relationships with others to feel the most fulfilled, while some prefer only to have a small number of friends or close family members. Whatever the case may be, you should make an effort to pursue those meaningful connections with the people you care about.
Know the Warning Signs- As we discussed previously, there are several warning signs that someone may exhibit if they are considering suicide. By knowing these warning signs, you have a greater chance of recognizing them in others.
Offer Help and Support- if you notice someone you care about is exhibiting some warning signs for suicidal thoughts, offer to help them or give them support. An empathetic friend who is willing to listen can go a long way.
Get Professional Help- Do whatever you can to encourage a person struggling with suicidal thoughts to seek professional help from a trained mental health professional.
Follow up- If your friend or loved one does begin seeking the support of a mental health professional and they are given a treatment plan or medication, follow up with your friend to make sure that they are following through with that plan.
Make an effort to be there- Most people will tell a friend or loved one “call me anytime” or “I’m here if you need me,” and while these sentiments are wonderful, they are not always enough. Sometimes a person needs the people in their lives to make an effort to be there, drop by for a visit, call them on the phone just to chat, invite them to do something healthy together such as exercising together or going out to enjoy nature together.
Encourage healthy lifestyle changes- Encourage them to develop healthier habits such as healthy eating, getting enough sleep, and engaging in some sort of exercise regularly. Check-in regularly to see how these new healthy habits are going.
Create a safety plan- Start by removing all lethal means such as drugs and weapons that could be used to harm themselves. Then discuss a plan with steps they promise to handle suicidal thoughts in the future. This plan should include a list of potential triggers such as anniversary dates of traumatic events and frequent stressors, the phone numbers of their medical and mental health professionals, and a list of supportive family members and friends that they should reach out to when they are struggling with suicidal thoughts.
Play the Long Game- the end of a suicidal event or crisis is not truly the end. A person who struggles with suicidal thoughts will need ongoing support to maintain a healthy mindset and stay on the road to recovery. You must continue to check in regularly.
Are you seeking Mental Health Support for Suicidal thoughts?
At Georgetown Counseling and Wellness, we provide a compassionate space for you to tell your story and fully acknowledge your reality, utilizing proven treatment techniques. Our clinicians are trained to help you or your loved one navigate and overcome struggles with depression and anxiety and develop healthy and positive life changes. In light of COVID-19, we are offering telehealth sessions over HIPAA-compliant video chat platforms. We also offer in-person sessions. If you would like to know more about our services, please don’t hesitate to reach out. (512) 400-4247.
Resources can be found on the Texas Health and Human Services Website (Texas Health and Human Services)
The Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Call: 800-273-8255 (800-273-TALK)
Chat online: suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Support for people who are deaf and hard of hearing: 800-799-4889
Support for Veterans and Their Loved Ones
The Veterans Crisis Line connects Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring, and confidential support 24/7.
Call: 800-273-8255 and Press 1
Chat online: veteranscrisisline.net
Send a text message: 838255
Support for people who are deaf and hard of hearing
Crisis Text Line
Crisis Text Line provides free, 24/7 crisis support and trains volunteers to support people in crisis.
Text: TX to 741741 for free, 24/7 crisis support in the U.S.
Mental Health Technology Transfer Center Network
The MHTTC provides training and technical assistance to enhance the capacity of the behavioral health and related workforces to deliver evidence-based practices to people with mental illness. Its Northeast and Caribbean region provides many resources in English and Spanish and recently produced two resources for assessing and evaluating suicide risk.
The Trevor Project
The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning young people under 25.
Chat online: thetrevorproject.org
Text: START to 678678
Texas Suicide Prevention Collaborative
provides free resources, educational information, phone apps, and training.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
AFSP has local chapters throughout the state that can deliver education programs to schools, workplaces, and communities.
National Alliance on Mental Illness
NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. Local NAMI chapters can deliver education programs to communities.
Help Outside the United States
To find a suicide helpline outside the United States, visit: