September 10th is National Suicide Prevention Day. A day to create awareness and promote action to help address the ongoing epidemic of suicide. Today is set aside to give those impacted by suicide the space to speak out about the devastating effects of suicide.
Some facts as reported by the National Institute for Mental Health:
- Suicide was the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States, claiming the lives of over 47,500 people.
- Suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34, and the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 35 and 44.
- There were nearly two and a half times as many suicides (47,511) in the United States as there were homicides (19,141).
Suicide is largely preventable. We have the tools to significantly reduce the the tragic loss of life by suicide. Through collective action of acknowledgement, awareness, and commitment to interventions, we can alleviate this serious issue.
What steps can be taken?
At a government level:
- Develop a structure of accurate reporting to identify trends and create risk models.
- Provide funding for research, awareness, treatment, and community resources.
- Foster an increase in professional mental health support and availability of mental health treatment.
As a community:
- Establish helplines, both warm lines and hot lines, to give people someone to talk to.
- Develop community activities and services that help to address loneliness and foster friendship/support.
- Support community activities that routinely bring people together.
- Recognize and address high risk situations and address them with community resources.
- Ensure academic institutions recognize risk factors among students.
- Develop programs of awareness and education.
- Create an environment where seeking help is seen as a strength and not a weakness.
As an employer:
- Promote a healthy working environment, both physically and mentally.
- Offer opportunities for people to seek help with strong employee assistance programs.
- Create a no-judgment environment where people feel comfortable seeking help, without fear of retribution or lost opportunities.
As an individual:
- Know and recognize risk indicators and warning signs of suicide.
- Do not be afraid to ask the hard questions, such as, “Are you thinking of taking your life?” Research shows that asking these questions does not increase the likelihood that someone will attempt suicide.
- When in doubt, always err on the side of caution. Do not leave a person at risk without ensuring that they have support in place.
- Promote and participate in community activities focused on suicide prevention.
- Learn to be an active listener.
- Learn about the support and services available in your community.
None of these groups alone will solve this nationwide epidemic. No magic wand or vaccination is going to make this issue go away. Today’s stressors and pressures are cultivating an environment where it’s easy for people to feel hopeless and lost. Our boom of technology and social media has the potential to improve wellbeing, but can also be the cause of loneliness, low self-esteem, and low self-worth.
Let’s use this September to shift the trend. We must band together for this long and difficult fight to bring hope to those in despair, and to support those at risk.