September is National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month. As this month winds down, it is important to remember suicide prevention can be addressed year-round.
Mental health is just as important as physical health. In 2020, suicide was the 12th leading cause of death for Americans, according to the CDC. Although suicide rates have decreased over the past two years, we should not settle for reducing the number. When it comes to awareness, numbers do not resonate with people nearly as much as personal stories. Recognizing warning signs and providing resources for someone in need could be life-saving.
This month provided a dedicated time for people, organizations, and communities to join their voices and broadcast the message that suicide can be prevented and healing is possible. Each person can play a role in saving lives. We can come together to reduce factors that increase the risk for suicidal thoughts and behavior and increase the factors that help strengthen, support, and protect people from suicide.
The bottom line is, we cannot say that we recognize suicide as a problem and then not do the necessary things to make a difference. As a society, things we have to do if we are to make a difference would be starting the conversation about suicide, increase education and training around it, talk to people who have lived experience, and say “die from suicide” not committed or completed suicide because of the connotations of those words.
It is important to invest more in conversations with people who struggle with mental illness because talking about mental health and about suicide does not make it happen. A lot of people who die by suicide or attempt to, don’t necessarily want to die. Rather they want the pain to go away and silence is one of the most painful experiences a person can have.
For those who have suffered a loss from death by suicide, or loss survivors, it is essential to find others who are sharing your journey. Having a group of people you can depend on, who draw from everyday experience, and who share the ups and downs of grief, is an interval part of the healing process.
Additionally, it has been revealed that there are internet platforms that provide information on death by suicide utilized by young adults and children. The sites show how common household items can be used in death by suicide, among other things to further suicide ideation. Statistics show that one in four people struggle with anxiety, depression, or some type of behavioral or mental health challenge. Make sure you are checking in with yourself and those around you.
Warning Signs of Suicidal Ideation
Indicators of suicidal ideation are never as obvious as you think they are. They can range from verbal cues to changes in behaviors.
When it comes to voicing suicidal ideations, it won’t always be as clear as “I’m going to end it all.” Pay close attention to the following comments:
- “People would be better off without me.”
- “I wish I were dead.”
- “I can’t take it anymore.”
- “I just can’t go on.”
- “You won’t have to worry about me anymore.”
Whether it is direct or indirect verbalization, it is important to address any indication that someone is coming up with a plan to harm themselves. Changes in behavior could also suggest that someone is having suicidal thoughts.
Look out for these changes:
- No longer wanting to hang out with other people
- Quitting sports or hobbies
- Skipping school, getting lower grades
- Having a more difficult time going to work
- Drinking or using drugs
- Sleeping more or sleeping less
Reproductive Health and Suicide
K&T writer Jay Watts shared the following information about reproductive health and suicide awareness and prevention:
Reproductive health matters when talking about suicide awareness and prevention. Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is the collection of physical and emotional symptoms typically 1-2 weeks before a period starts. Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is a more severe form of PMS classified as a cyclic mood disorder. Symptoms of PMDD include:
- Intense mood swings
- Increased irritability and interpersonal conflict
- Increased depression, anxiety, and negative self-talk
- Decreased interest in activities
- Hypersomnia or insomnia
- Decreased concentration
- Physical pain and bloating
Why PMS & PMDD matter for suicide prevention:
- Nearly 40% of individuals with PMDD report suicidal ideation (37.4%) plans and attempts (16.2%) compared with those with PMS (22.7%, 7.6%, and 7.4%)
- 24% of adolescents with PMS reported suicidal ideation compared with just 18% of adolescents with PMDD
How you can help:
- Support the International Association for Premenstrual Disorders (IAPMD)
- Visit IAPMD.org for peer support, education, and training on PMDD
- Challenge the stigma. Prioritize reproductive health
988 Lifeline and Other Resources
When someone opens up to you about what they’re feeling, you can then introduce resources and start discussing the possibility of speaking with a professional. Follow up with someone to ensure that they plan to keep using preventative measures, and remind them that you are there for them and support them.
Here are some resources to suggest:
- Call 988: 24/7 Suicide Crisis Lifeline
- Talk to a mental health professional. (Ask if you can take them to their appointment if that is more comfortable)
- Speak to your primary care doctor or physician
Whether anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation affect you or someone you know, it is everybody’s job to aid in suicide awareness and prevention. Dr. Gabor Mate asserts that it is important to “pay attention to your insecurities. They are not there to taunt you. But to show you where to heal.”
No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.
If anyone is having thoughts of suicide or is in a crisis, please call or text 988 (the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline)
Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC): https://sprc.org/
Suicide Prevention Alliance: https://www.suicidepreventionalliance.org/