September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month – a time when our communities unite to share stories, resources, and compassion to raise awareness about suicide and its prevention. Every life lost to suicide is a tragedy that deeply impacts families, friends, and entire communities. Together, we can work towards creating a world where individuals struggling with suicidal thoughts find hope, help, and healing.
In 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a staggering 49,449 deaths by suicide, equivalent to roughly one life lost every 11 minutes. These numbers are a stark reminder of the urgent need for awareness, prevention, and support. Beyond the lives lost, millions more grapple with thoughts of suicide, revealing the scale of the challenge we face. In 2021, an estimated 12.3 million American adults contemplated suicide, while 3.5 million made plans and 1.7 million attempted suicide in that same year. The impact spans across age groups, with suicide ranking among the top nine causes of death for individuals aged 10 to 64. Alarmingly, it was the second leading cause of death for both those aged 10 to 14 and 20 to 34.
The statistics paint a somber picture, but they also underscore the urgency of our vision: where all people have equal access to the care they need, when they need it. The complex interplay of mental health disorders like anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, and conditions such as substance abuse and feelings arising from loss underscores the need for early intervention and comprehensive care.
Suicide Prevention: Recognizing Warning Signs
Understanding the signs of suicide is crucial for timely intervention. Be vigilant for:
- Frequent discussions about self-harm or suicide.
- Emotional detachment from loved ones.
- Loss of interest in once-enjoyed activities.
- Drastic changes in eating or sleeping habits.
- Decline in school or work performance.
- Acquiring a weapon.
- Expressing thoughts about death or suicide.
- Giving away prized possessions.
Being There: A Beacon of Hope
Being a supportive presence can make all the difference for someone struggling with suicidal thoughts. Offering a non-judgmental ear communicates care and concern, which can encourage them to seek further help. Your willingness to stand by them during their healing journey is a powerful testament to the strength of human connection.
Guiding friends and family towards available resources is another way to extend your support. Often, individuals may not know where to seek help. If someone is at risk, your guidance could be the lifeline they need to find the right resources and assistance.
Remember, you’re not expected to have all the answers – but showing that you’re willing to listen and stand by them can lighten their burden and provide a glimmer of hope.
In times of crisis, reaching out to the right resources is essential. Here are some valuable organizations that provide support and guidance:
- PCH Crisis Line (708-PILLARS): Available 24/7, providing free and confidential support to those in crisis. Pillars Community Health’s 24-hour Crisis Intervention Services help stabilize personal and family emergencies involving suicidal and homicidal behavior, severe aggression toward others, and mental illness; and family conflict and domestic violence. Staff also help clients cope with a recent loss; address substance abuse issues; provide support amid sudden traumas that affect entire communities; assist law enforcement with crises; and counsel students and faculty when there is a death or major incident in the community or school. Call the Crisis Team at 708-PILLARS (708-745-5277) and follow the prompts to speak to a crisis worker.
- 988 (formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) offers 24/7 call, text and chat access to trained crisis counselors who can help people experiencing suicidal, substance use, and/or mental health crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress. People can also dial 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support.
- The Trevor Project (1-866-488-7386): A 24/7 crisis intervention and suicide prevention phone service for LGBTQ+ young people.
- Crisis Text Line (Text HOME to 741741): A 24/7 free text support service for anyone in crisis.
- Trans Lifeline (877-565-8860): Run by and for trans individuals, offering peer support and connection.
- Veterans Crisis Line (Dial 988 then press 1) is a 24-hour, toll-free hotline that provides phone, webchat, and text options available to military veterans and their families. It provides options for deaf and hard of hearing individuals.
- National Institute of Mental Health, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Valuable sources of information and support.
This September, as we commemorate National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, let us reaffirm our commitment to fostering understanding, compassion, and open dialogue around mental health.
Remember, you are not alone, and there is always help and hope available.