September 6-12 Marks Suicide Prevention Awareness Week
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and September 6-12 is Suicide Prevention Awareness Week. However, suicide prevention spans much farther than one simple month. It’s important to recognize these awareness months/weeks as an opportunity to learn, spread the word, and change the conversation to end the stigma surrounding suicide.
The Suicide Prevention Lifeline has been providing 24/7 free and confidential support for the past 15 years. Their mission is simple: We can all prevent suicide. “Understanding the issues concerning suicide and mental health is an important way to take part in suicide prevention, help others in crisis, and change the conversation around suicide.”
The two most important factors informing suicide prevention begin with knowing the risk factors and warning signs of suicide.
Who is at risk to consider or attempt suicide?
While these characteristics certainly cannot cause or predict a suicide attempt, they are incredibly important to be aware of as a first step of recognizing the signs of suicidal behavior.
Those with mental disorders, particularly mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, and alcohol and other substance use disorders may be more likely to consider suicide. A major physical illness or a history of trauma or abuse are also considered risk factors. If you notice general feelings of hopelessness or impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies, it could potentially be a manifestation of suicidal ideation. Those who have previously attempted suicide, have easy access to lethal means, or have a family history of suicide are more likely to attempt suicide.
Environmental or situational factors may also increase risk factors in individuals. For example, a job or financial loss or loss of relationship could trigger suicidal thoughts. Unfortunately, a huge influence on suicide behavior is the lack of social support and sense of isolation, stigma associated with asking for help, and the lack of healthcare—especially mental health and substance abuse treatment. Noticing local clusters of suicide as well as exposure to others who have died by suicide, whether that be through the media/internet or real life, are also considered risk factors.
What are the warning signs?
According to the Lifeline, “Some warning signs may help you determine if a loved one is at risk for suicide, especially if the behavior is new, has increased, or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change.”
These warning signs make it clear that it is important to listen. If your loved one begins talking about wanting to die, feeling hopeless or having no reason to live, feeling trapped or in pain, or about being a burden to others, they may be calling out for help.
It is also important to observe abnormal behaviors that may be indicative of suicidal thoughts. For example, increasing the use of alcohol or drugs, sleeping too little or too much, isolating themselves, acting anxious or agitated, behaving recklessly, showing rage, or extreme mood swings. Many individuals do not know how to express themselves in words and fight the stigma to ask for help, therefore, altering their behavior may be the only way they know how to reach out.
“Suicide is not inevitable for anyone. By starting the conversation, providing support, and directing help to those who need it, we can prevent suicides and save lives.” While the month of September highlights suicide prevention, it is a 24/7 effort to save lives all year long. If you or a loved one is experiencing thoughts of suicide or exhibiting the warning signs listed above, call 1-800-273-TALK or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline website.
Clinicians in our Counseling & Wellness Centers are available to help with any mental health concerns you are having. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call our main number at 844-4-ACENDA (844-422-3632 x9500).