Each year, September 10th is designated World Suicide Prevention Day, an observance created by the International Association for Suicide Prevention, World Health Organization (WHO) and World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH). The day is a way to help reduce stigma, break barriers and encourage action.
Globally, about one in every 100 deaths is the result of suicide. It is the second leading cause of death for 10-34 years old. The prevalence of death by suicide is even higher among marginalized communities, particularly marginalized children and young adults. LGBTQIA+ children and transgender people are more likely to attempt and die by suicide, and African-American children ages 5-12 are dying by suicide at nearly twice the rate of their white counterparts. Of these deaths, almost half of those who die by suicide have a documented, diagnosed mental illness or condition.
What can we do?
These numbers are staggering, but there is hope. Education and awareness are the first steps to breaking the stigma of suicide to help prevent harm. In observance of World Suicide Prevention Day, below are five actionable items to help prevent suicide and connect friends, family and loved ones with the help they need.
Check in and ask questions
Checking in with loved ones is essential during this time of social distancing. The necessity of physically distancing can exacerbate feelings of loneliness, so it is vital to check in and ask questions. Because of the stigma surrounding suicide, it can be difficult to be direct, but studies show that asking direct, tough questions can help prevent suicide. Instead of increasing suicide ideation – or suicidal thoughts or ideas – questions such as, “are you having thoughts of suicide?” can create an open dialogue for at-risk individuals.
Show up and offer support
Help break the stigma of suicide by offering non-judgmental support. Showing up for loved ones in their time of need is key to preventing suicide. More than showing up, though, listening with no judgment creates safe spaces. Cultivate compassion and empathy when checking in with loved ones or at-risk individuals. When offering support, be aware of common warning signs and risk factors of suicide.
Keep them safe
One of the most important aspects of suicide prevention is to keep spaces safe. This can mean reducing at-risk individual’s access to lethal means. If possible, separate them from items they might use to hurt themselves. Help them create a plan for removing access or disabling lethal means in their environment or connect them with a resource to help create a plan. Again, it is vital to ask difficult questions and be direct. For emergency situations, please contact the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
Connect them with resources
Staying connected can be difficult. While we are physically distanced right now to curb the spread of COVID-19, there are still ways to connect. Reach out to friends and family members. If you have an at-risk loved one, help them connect with others. If you know someone struggling, remind them they have a network of support and resources.
Help them with follow-up
Follow-up care and ongoing treatment are necessary and helpful for many at-risk individuals. As a supporter, help them remember follow-up appointments. Connect them to ongoing follow-up services such as medical care, therapy services, support groups and more. This connection can make all the difference, particularly after a crisis. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline has a robust database of national and local resources.
We can all prevent suicide
Together, we can break the stigma. We can all take part in suicide prevention by educating ourselves, showing up, offering support and shifting narratives. Suicidal ideation is never a normal response to stress or events, and signs should never be ignored. Get help for at-risk individuals as soon as possible. Learn more about how TeamHealth is helping prevent clinician suicide.
If you or someone you know is struggling, please reach out for help. Reach the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255 (Languages: English, Spanish).