You may or may not already know but Sept 5th-11th is National Suicide Prevention Week.
Sept. 10th is Worldwide Suicide Prevention Day
Why does this matter?
The national suicide rate is rising (it has increased from 10.5 in 1999 to 13.0 in 2016).
It’s the 2nd leading cause of death for college students and those from ages 15-34.
It’s the 3rd cause of death for ages 10-14 (the suicide rate has been rising for middle schoolers, especially females. Bullying is associated with suicide.)
Every 13 minutes, someone dies by suicide
There are about 117 suicides per day
Over 40,000 Americans die by suicide each year
Native Americans are almost twice as likely to die by suicide
17.7% of high school students have seriously considered attempting suicide within the past year.
8% of high school students have made a suicide attempt within the past year.
It is an issue that affects people regardless of socioeconomic status, race, and other demographic factors.
How do I know if someone needs help?
If you see someone that seems upset or is just not acting like themselves lately, don’t be afraid to ask them how they are feeling. If you are still concerned, ask if they are thinking about suicide, if they have a plan, and if they have intent or the means to do it (such as pills or a gun).
Use the mnemonic “IS PATH WARM”:
I – Ideation
S – Substance Abuse
P A T H
P – Purposelessness
A – Anxiety
T – Trapped
H – Hopelessness
W A R M
W – Withdrawal
A – Anger
R – Recklessness
M – Mood Changes
What do I do if someone needs help?
- DO NOT leave them alone
- If you really need to leave, call someone and wait until they can come help
- Listen to what they have to say
- Ask if they have intent to harm themselves
- Ask if they have a plan
- Ask if they have access to dangerous objects or lethal means
- Use your judgment—just because they say no or “I’m fine”, doesn’t mean it’s true
- Contact a mental health professional (preferably their own)
- Help them call the Prevention hotline: 1-800-273-TALK
- Call the mobile crisis unit in your area
- Physically bring them to the hospital or a crisis center
- Call 911
Why doesn’t anyone want to talk about suicide?
There are many reasons for this and the main one is that there is a stigma around mental illness and suicide that makes people feel like it’s not appropriate to talk about it because it will show weakness or make people uncomfortable.
Many schools, parents, or administrators have the belief that talking about suicide will cause more people to attempt suicide; however, research overwhelmingly shows that the opposite is true (Gould et al., 2005; Robinson et al., 2013).
Not talking about suicide will lead to more suicide attempts and completed suicides.
Suicide isn’t an idea that comes out of thin air. It comes from an overwhelming amount of stress, helplessness, burdensomeness, and many other factors.
Some suicide threats are not taken seriously because people say they just “want attention”. If they are seeking attention by threatening suicide, there is clearly something wrong and they need to get help. There is still a possibility that they could attempt.
People who battle suicidal thoughts have most likely battled mental illness like depression, or even significant trauma and PTSD.
People who have been struggling with suicidal thoughts can look happy, have jobs, and blend in with society. There isn’t a way to “look” for someone who may be suicidal.
People with suicidal thoughts have had to be strong and hold in their feelings for years. They may have the idea that keeping those feelings in means they are strong, but in reality, it takes much more strength to get help.
What can I do to raise awareness?
It starts at the core of being kind to everyone. You never know what silent battle someone may be struggling with, so always keep that in mind. Think of ways throughout the day that you can make life just a little bit better for someone else.
Don’t wait until it’s too late to tell people how you feel about them. There are too many times when people end up saying nice things at someone’s funeral or on their Facebook page when they are gone. What if they were able to see those things while they were still alive? What kind of impact could that have made on their life?
Let people know you appreciate them and tell them what you specifically like about them.
Remember, suicide is preventable. We just need to work together in order to help them get help.
Share the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website, facts, videos and change your profile picture banner to support suicide prevention this week.
Participate in an Out of the Darkness walk to support the cause
Gould, M.S., Marrocco, F.A., & Kleinman, M. (2005). Evaluating iatrogenic risk of youth suicide screening programs: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of American Medical Association, 293(13), 1635-43.
Muehlenkamp, J.J., Marrone, S., Gray, J.S., Brown, D. L. (2009) A college suicide prevention model for American Indian students. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 40(2), 134-140. doi: 10.1037/a0013253
Robinson, J., Cox, G., Malone, A., Williamson, M., Baldwin, G., Fletcher, K., O’Brien, M. (2013). A systematic review of school-based interventions aimed at preventing, treating, and responding to suicide-related behavior in young people. Crisis, 34(3), 164–182.