September is Suicide Prevention Month, and though this can often be an upsetting topic, it’s an important one to address in order to both prevent and heighten awareness efforts.
Suicide is a deeply distressing event that can affect individuals from all backgrounds, communities, and cultures, regardless of age or gender. However, with increased awareness, education, and support, we can take meaningful steps to prevent suicide and offer help to those in need.
Understanding the scope of the problem:
- Over 48,ooo people died by suicide in the US in 2021, with over 1,300 deaths in Colorado alone.
- For every suicide there are many more people who attempt suicide. A prior suicide attempt is an important risk factor for suicide in the general population.
- Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among 15–29-year-olds worldwide.
These statistics are stark reminders of the magnitude of the issue, and they underscore the importance of addressing it on multiple fronts.
Recognizing the risk factors and warning signs of suicide is crucial for early intervention. While every individual’s experience is unique, some common risk factors include:
- Mental Health Issues: People with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or other mental health conditions are at a higher risk.
- Substance Use: Drug and alcohol misuse can increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
- Previous Attempts: A history of suicide attempts or self-harm indicates a heightened risk.
- Access to Lethal Means: Easy access to firearms, medications, or other lethal objects can increase the risk of impulsive suicides.
- Isolation and Loneliness: Feeling disconnected from friends, family, or society can exacerbate feelings of hopelessness.
Some common warning signs include:
- Expressing Suicidal Thoughts: Verbalizing thoughts of suicide, even in passing, should be taken seriously.
- Social Withdrawal: A sudden and significant withdrawal from social activities and relationships can be a red flag.
- Drastic Mood Swings: Severe mood swings, especially from depression to extreme euphoria, may signal a crisis.
- Giving Away Possessions: People contemplating suicide may give away belongings or make arrangements as if they won’t be around.
Preventing suicide can often require a multifaceted approach:
- Personal connection: Talking with someone about how they feel could help alleviate some of the distress of suicidal thoughts. Often just knowing someone cares can make all the difference.
- Professional help: It is also important to recognize the value of seeing a mental health professional. They can provide a range of interventions and support on a more long-term basis. It can also be helpful to speak to volunteers who have been trained to listen by contacting a helpline (many services offer a range of mediums such as text, email, calls, or face-to-face).
- Safety plan: Some people find it helpful to create a “safety plan”. This is a tool developed for helping someone navigate suicidal feelings and urges.
- Raise awareness: Increasing public awareness about suicide and mental health reduces stigma and encourages open conversations.
- Training and education: Educate communities, schools, workplaces, and healthcare professionals about recognizing warning signs and providing support.
- Support for vulnerable groups: Recognize the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ+ individuals, veterans, and other at-risk populations and provide specialized support.
- Promote compassion: Foster empathy and understanding in your home, work, and community. Judgment-free spaces enable those struggling to seek help without fear of stigma.
- It is also critical that you look after your own mental health and well-being and seek support of your own.
Often, it can feel difficult to talk about suicide. Taking a training can help you feel prepared to talk to friends and family, or whoever you may come across who is struggling. Solvista Health and Chaffee County Public Health are hosting a training for this very topic, called Youth Mental Health First Aid Training (YMHFA) on Friday September 29th at the Touber Building. It is a day full of great content and conversations with lunch provided. If you are interested, please register via this link: https://www.mhfaco.org/find-a-class/attend/1672 .
Additionally, from September 20th through 23rd, there will be four opportunities to watch the film Mountain In My Mind2: Tragedy Into Triumph, hosted by Solvista Health. For more information and to register, follow this link: Mountain In My Mind
Suicide prevention and awareness are not one-time efforts but ongoing commitments to creating a more compassionate and understanding society. By recognizing the signs, reducing stigma, providing support, and taking trainings or hearing stories from those with lived experiences, we can make a significant impact in reducing the incidence of suicide and offering hope to those who need it most.
Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: 988
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Colorado Crisis Services: 844-493-8255 or text TALK to 38255
Solvista Health: 719-275-2351