September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and this year, National Suicide Prevention Week is September 9th-15th, with Word Suicide Prevention Day falling on September 10th, 2018. Organizations from across the world increase outreach efforts and host a plethora of events to bring awareness to the growing suicide epidemic and advocate for the safe recovery of suicidal individuals.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death in peoples aged 15-34, and with rates on the rise across the country, the need for definitive action is at an all-time high. According to this recent Washington Post article, more than 50% of the people we have lost to suicide were not diagnosed with a mental illness, despite over 90% of victims showing evidence of illness in psychological autopsies. It is evident that people are not receiving the help they need, whether it be a result of the pervasive stigmas surrounding mental illness or perhaps an absence of quality mental healthcare due to recent federal budget cuts. Furthermore, as a community, we are failing to think of suicide like every other leading cause of death (i.e. cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s). By treating suicide as a public health crisis, similar to an infectious disease outbreak or the opioid epidemic, these preventable fatalities will decrease in number.
Initiatives like National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month are an effective way to bring attention to the growing problem, start productive conversations, decrease the stigma surrounding suicide, and encourage people to get help. This is a time to share experiences, promote resources, and educate each other. By creating an environment in which people feel comfortable talking about a topic that carries such a detrimental stigma, we are protecting those who do feel suicidal and creating a better-informed society equipped to help those who struggle.
Use this month to get involved and find an organization that shares your values! There are so many opportunities to join other advocates, start meaningful conversations, and save lives. National organizations like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the National Alliance on Mental Illness have chapters across the country that welcome volunteers with open arms. Additionally, there is an abundance of online educational resources available to anyone wanting to familiarize themselves with risk factors and behaviors indicative of suicidal ideation.
Suicide is preventable, and by prioritizing suicide prevention, we have the capacity to save a lot of lives. By increasing access to mental health services, fostering resiliency in ourselves, paying attention to the people around us, and supporting research, we can have a tangible impact.
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The lifeline provides free, confidential support 24/7 from trained counselors and can connect you with local crisis centers and professionals.