Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
by Jaime Friedman
September 22, 2022
Mental illness is difficult to discuss for most people, but the consequences of ignoring an unresolved mental health issue exceed any discomfort someone might have while talking about it. Especially during Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, mental and behavioral health professionals are aiming to raise awareness and reduce the stigma attached to discussing mental health issues and suicide.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) dedicates September to suicide prevention each year, as it can already be a stressful time for so many people. September usually means some combination of new classrooms, teachers or classmates to adjust to for students. Whether your child comes to you with a
problem, or you want to check in with them as a preventative measure, parents are strongly encouraged to talk about mental health and to normalize talking about it.
Suicidal ideation is an urgent matter that requires immediate attention from a professional. If you or a loved one is having suicidal thoughts, go to your nearest emergency room immediately. Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is primarily for implementing proactive measures and for normalizing the discussion of mental illness. Each September should serve as a reminder to be aware the mental health of ourselves and others for the next year, rather than serving as an annual check-up for mental illness.
Risk Factors & Warning Signs
Suicide was the twelfth leading cause of death in the United
States in 2020. There are many possible warning signs when someone is at risk for attempting suicide, but if you already have suspicions about someone, please reach out to them as soon as possible. It never hurts to remind your friends and family that you care for them, and one simple conversation about getting treatment could be life-changing for a person in need.
Although some groups are disproportionately affected by suicide, anyone can be susceptible. Unfortunately, this includes children on the Autism Spectrum, who have had a greater risk of suicide than children without Autism in the last two decades. According to a study published in 2019 by the University of Utah, young people with Autism are more than twice as likely to attempt suicide than those without. Girls with Autism were found to be three times more likely to die from suicide than girls without Autism.
Already having a psychiatric disorder is one of the risk factors for suicide, but each individual in crisis may present differently. The Mayo Clinic lists the following as risk factors for teen suicide:
- Having a psychiatric disorder, such as depression, an anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder or oppositional defiant disorder
- Family history of mood disorder, suicide or suicidal behavior
- History of physical or sexual abuse or exposure to violence or bullying
- A substance use disorder
- Access to means, such as firearms or medications
- Exposure to the suicide of a family member or friend
- Loss of or conflict with close friends or family members
- Physical or medical issues, such as changes related to puberty or a chronic illness
- Being lesbian, gay, bisexual or any other sexual minority youth
- Being adopted
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) outlines some of the commonly recognized warning signs of suicide, while also offering resources for people actively in crisis. Warning signs listed by the NIH include:
- Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves
- Talking about feeling empty or hopeless or having no reason to live
- Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions
- Feeling unbearable emotional or physical pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Giving away important possessions
- Saying goodbye to friends and family
- Putting affairs in order, such as making a will
- Taking great risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast
- Talking or thinking about death often
Throughout the United States, you can now dial 988 to access the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline over the phone. You can also text “Hello” to 741741 if you are not comfortable talking on the phone. Both of these services provide confidential support and professional guidance, and they are available twenty-four hours a day. If you or a loved one is in crisis, you can also go to the nearest emergency room. For more information and emergency resources, please visit the NIH website.