We all play a role in suicide prevention

September 9, 2020 Tonja Dodd

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. The purpose of this day is to raise awareness that suicide can be prevented.

Although suicide can often be prevented, the statistics can be haunting. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States with more than 48,000 people dying in 2018. Suicidal ideation – or having suicidal thoughts – is on the increase in adults with 4.3% of adults having serious thoughts of suicide in 2017, up from 3.8% in 2012. Sadly, with the COVID-19 pandemic, in June 2020, a survey published by the CDC found that suicidal ideation was elevated. More than 1 in 10 adults (10.7%) – approximately twice as many than in 2018 – reported serious consideration of suicide in the previous 30 days (10.7% versus 4.3%). Even more grim are the statistics for young adults aged 18 to 24, with 1 in 4 (25.5%) reporting suicidal thoughts. Additionally, 18.6% of Hispanics, 15.1% of blacks, 30.7% of caregivers and 21.7% of essential workers reported suicidal thoughts in the last 30 days.

If you or a loved one is in trouble, know two things: 1. You are not alone and 2. There is hope. When we start to understand the risk factors, warning signs and ways to reach out for help ourselves and how to help each other through crises, we can change the conversation about suicide and help prevent these tragic suicide attempts and deaths. Per the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), warning signs that someone may be considering suicide include:

  • Increased alcohol and drug use
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Withdrawal from friends, family and community
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Impulsive or reckless behavior

Suicidal behaviors are a psychiatric emergency. If you or a loved one begins engaging in any of the following actions, seek immediate help from a health care provider or call 911:

  • Collecting and saving pills or buying a weapon
  • Giving away possessions
  • Tying up loose ends, like organizing personal papers or paying off debts
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family

You may also reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline when in crisis. The Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provide free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can access it online at suicidepreventionlifeline.org or by phone at 1-800-273-8255.

In closing, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) suggests these five steps to #BeThe1To help someone in emotional pain.

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