Suicide Prevention

Image of someone helping another in crisis

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

September is Nation Suicide Prevention Month. Throughout the month, mental health advocates, prevention organizations, survivors, allies, and community members unite to promote suicide prevention awareness.

I am not an expert. However, I recently lost my 17-year old nephew to suicide. I wish I knew then what I know now. I hope sharing these tools will help you or help you help a loved-one in crisis.


Factors

Suicide is rarely caused by a single circumstance or event. Instead, a range of factors—at the individual, relationship, community, and societal levels—can increase risk. These risk factors are situations or problems that can increase the possibility that a person will attempt suicide. Specific factors that increase the risk of suicide include mental illness, substance abuse, chronic disease, childhood trauma, social loss, financial difficulties, and the loss of a loved one. Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that almost 50% of those who die from suicide have a diagnosed mental illness. Furthermore, around 27% of suicide victims had a crisis around the time of their death, while 21% had a physical health condition

Substance misuse plays a large role in the crisis of suicide. 

Disturbances in brain chemistry play a major role in suicidal thoughts, and suicidal feelings often arise from disturbances in brain chemistry, The use of alcohol and other drugs increases impulsivity and increase suicide risk. A recent report released by the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) shows there were 51 drug-related emergency department (ED) visits involving suicide attempts per 100,000 population. Alcohol, the most frequently mentioned substance, was associated with 24% of these types of ED visits followed closely by antidepressants at 20%. Females (sex at birth) accounted for 64 percent of these visits while males comprised 36 percent.


Warning Signs

It is often difficult to tell when someone is having suicidal thoughts. If you suspect a family member or friend is contemplating suicide, it is important to voice concerns in a calm, non-judgmental, non-confrontational manner. As of 2021, approximately 4.5% of males and 5.2% of females in the United States reported having serious thoughts of suicide in the past year.


The idea that you can put thoughts of suicide into a person's head is a myth.
If you suspect a family member or friend is contemplating suicide,
it is important to voice concerns in a calm, non-judgmental, non-confrontational manner. 


Warning signs among those having suicidal thoughts may include talking about death, expressing feelings of hopelessness and loneliness, withdrawing from social activities, behaving aggressively or recklessly, and suffering dramatic mood swings. Suicidal thoughts, plans, and attempts are much more common among those with drug or alcohol dependence and/or those who have suffered a recent major depressive episode. In 2021, around 32% of U.S. adults who suffered a major depressive episode in the past year had serious thoughts of suicide, compared with just 2.4% of those who did not have such an episode.

Curious about your state of mental health? Take the Mental Health America Depression Test


Prevention

Suicide is preventable. Most individuals who are suicidal desperately want to live; they are just unable to see alternatives to their problems. Talking about suicide can be difficult, but it is essential.

If someone is in crisis or depressed, asking if he or she is thinking about suicide can help, so don't hesitate to start the conversation.

According to the NIH, the idea that you can put thoughts of suicide into a person's head is a myth. In contrast, an abstract published in the National Center of Biotechnology Information (NCBI), shows that acknowledging and talking about suicide may reduce, rather than increase suicidal ideation, and may lead to improvement.

So, if you suspect a family member or friend is contemplating suicide, voice your concerns in a calm, non-judgmental, non-confrontational manner, Ideally, while alone with the person in a quiet setting Talking about suicide can improve mental health-related outcomes and the likelihood of seeking treatment. Opening this conversation helps people explore an alternative view of their existing circumstances.

The NIH recommends these steps to engage with someone you feel may be at risk:

  1. ASK:  “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It’s not an easy question, but studies show that asking at-risk individuals  if they are suicidal does not increase suicides or suicidal thoughts.
  2. KEEP THEM SAFE:  Reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal items or places is an important part of suicide prevention. While this is not always easy, asking if the at-risk person has a plan and removing or disabling the lethal means can make a difference.
  3. BE THERE:  Listen carefully and learn what the individual is thinking and feeling. Research suggests acknowledging and talking about suicide  may reduce rather than increase  suicidal thoughts.
  4. HELP THEM CONNECT:  Save the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline number (call or text 988) in your phone so they’re there if you need them. You can also help make a connection with a trusted individual like a family member, friend, spiritual advisor, or mental health professional.
  5. STAY CONNECTED:  Staying in touch after a crisis or after being discharged from care can make a difference. Studies have shown  the number of suicide deaths goes down when someone follows up with the at-risk person.


Resources

If you are having suicidal thoughts, or you know someone who is, it is essential to seek help. Many countries have suicide crisis or prevention lines that offer free advice and support in such situations. If you live in the United States, you can reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by simply calling 988 to receive free and confidential support 24/7.  You may call 988 on your own with concerns about someone else, or you can call together with that person and a specialist will help with next steps.

In addition to the sources linked above, here are a number of recommended resources:

Reference Portals

Training and Promotion

Informational Resources

Related LifeRing Meetings

Co-occurring Disorders Focus Meetings
The LifeRing Co-occurring Disorders focus meetings are built on the HWYW platform and tailored to people in recovery with co-occurring disorders including alcohol and other substance disorders, and mental and emotional health issues. These meetings are limited to those diagnosed with co-occurring disorders and frequently require cameras to remain on throughout the meeting. Times and meeting links for LifeRing co-occurring disorders meetings are listed on the Online Meeting Schedule.

  • Brilliant Basket Cases | Mondays at 6:00pm Pacific Time
  • Crazy Talk | Wednesdays at 1:00pm Pacific Time
  • Shine On, You Crazy Diamond | Sundays at 9:30am Pacific Time
  • Manic Sunday | Sundays at 5:00pm Pacific

 


You can help LifeRing provide peer-to-peer resources like our Co-Occurring Disorder Meetings
with your one-time or sustaining donations.
Thank you!

 

1 Comments

  1. Ewa Conroy on September 29, 2023 at 2:41 pm

    I wanted to thank you for this succinct yet comprehensive article about suicide. Yes, it is preventable; raising awareness and providing matter-of-fact information helps a lot. Thanks again!