September is National Suicide Prevention Month, a time when people come together to raise awareness and work towards reducing the prevalence of suicide. Suicide is a challenging topic for many people to talk about, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, one of the biggest things we can do to prevent suicide is to make it easier to talk about suicide, depression, and other mental health struggles.
For those who care deeply about mental health issues, National Suicide Prevention Month provides an opportunity to not only raise awareness but also to take concrete steps to make a difference. In this blog, we'll explore what you can do to contribute to suicide prevention efforts, from understanding the signs to offering support and promoting mental well-being.
Suicide is a profoundly complex and distressing issue that affects countless people around the world. Each year, millions of people, regardless of age, gender, or background, are tragically lost to suicide. Suicide doesn't occur in isolation; it's often the result of a web of interconnected factors, including mental health issues, economic stress, social isolation, and loneliness.
Despite significant strides in mental health awareness, a pervasive stigma still exists around mental illness. People are often reluctant to seek help due to the fear of being judged or stigmatized. This stigma can deter individuals from reaching out to others when they need it most, perpetuating a cycle of suffering in silence.
Myths About Suicide
Adding to this stigma is the prevalence of many myths and common misunderstandings related to suicide. Consider some of the most common myths below:
Myth: People who talk about suicide won't actually do it.
Fact: Verbalizing thoughts of suicide is often a cry for help. Taking such statements seriously is essential, as individuals may indeed be at risk and in need of immediate support.
Myth: Asking someone directly about suicide will push them over the edge.
Fact: Asking someone if they are thinking about suicide can provide an opportunity for them to share their feelings and connect with the help they need. It's a caring and responsible action.
Myth: Suicide happens suddenly, without warning signs.
Fact: Most people who are at risk of suicide exhibit warning signs, such as changes in behavior, withdrawal from social activities, or expressions of hopelessness. Recognizing these signs can be crucial in preventing suicide.
Myth: People who attempt suicide are just seeking attention.
Fact: Suicide attempts are often a desperate plea for help and should not be dismissed as attention-seeking behavior. Such individuals require understanding and support.
Myth: Once someone is suicidal, they can't be helped.
Fact: With appropriate intervention, support, and treatment, many individuals who experience suicidal thoughts can recover and lead fulfilling lives. Early intervention is crucial.
Signals and Warning Signs
Recognizing the signs and warning signals of someone who may be at risk of experiencing depression or having suicidal thoughts is a crucial step in preventing tragedy. These signs can manifest in various ways, and it's essential to be attentive and empathetic. Here are three key categories of signs to watch for:
Pay attention to any noticeable shifts in a person's behavior. These may include:
Drastic changes in daily routines or habits
Increased use of alcohol or drugs
Neglect of personal hygiene or appearance
Giving away prized possessions
Listen closely to what the person says, as their words can offer valuable insights into their mental state. Look out for:
Expressions of hopelessness or helplessness
Statements about feeling like a burden to others
Talking about death, dying, or wanting to "end it all"
Mentioning that they have no reason to live
Talking about having suicidal thoughts or suicidal ideation
People at risk of depression and suicidal thoughts often isolate themselves from social interactions. Watch for signs of:
Avoiding friends and family
Withdrawing from social activities they once enjoyed
Decreased communication and responsiveness
Signs of Depression
Having depression does not mean that someone will attempt suicide. However, many people who do go on to attempt suicide experience depression at earlier stages. Depression can create a profound sense of hopelessness, emotional pain, and despair, which may lead someone to consider suicide as a way to escape their suffering.
Keep an eye out for the following signs of depression:
Loss of interest or pleasure
Appetite and weight changes
How You Can Help
There are concrete things you can do to support suicide prevention. Here are some ways you can support individual people coping with suicidal thoughts and reduce the stigma around suicide and mental health.
Start a conversation
When someone opens up about their struggles, listen actively and empathetically. Avoid offering solutions or judgment. Sometimes, a compassionate ear is all they need. If you believe someone you know may be considering suicide, ask them about it. As mentioned above this will not make them more likely to attempt suicide.
Connect to professional help
Share information about mental health resources, such as crisis helplines (988), counseling services, and support groups. Offer assistance in finding appropriate mental health professionals or treatment options. Helping them schedule appointments or accompanying them to appointments can be invaluable.
If someone is an immediate danger to themselves or others, do not hesitate to involve emergency services by calling 911. Their safety is the top priority, and professional help is crucial in these situations.
Use language intentionally
Instead of saying "commit suicide," it is more respectful and accurate to say "die by suicide" or "take one's own life." This terminology helps reduce the stigma associated with suicide and acknowledges the complexity of the issue while showing compassion for those affected by it.
Promote mental health awareness
Advocate for mental health awareness in your community, workplace, or school. By promoting open and stigma-reducing conversations about mental health, you can help create an environment where individuals feel safe discussing their struggles and seeking help when needed.
Pursue professional training
Consider attending a suicide prevention training program, such as Mental Health First Aid, to gain the skills and knowledge needed to help someone in crisis. These programs provide insights into identifying warning signs, initiating conversations, and connecting individuals to appropriate resources.
If You or Someone You Know Needs Help, Please Reach Out
Call or text the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988. If someone is an immediate threat to themselves or others, dial 911.
For support with general suicidal thoughts or depression symptoms, please contact WPA to set up a consultation.