September is National Suicide Prevention Month. A year and a half ago, I lost one of my clients to suicide. I was personally impacted by suicide and with the grief, I felt that I needed to do more to help others. Since then, I have been affected by other losses and I have worked closely with other clients to help them overcome the urge to commit suicide.

Statistics

  • Each year, approximately 44,965 Americans die by suicide.
  • That makes suicide the 10th leading cause of death.
  • The number of deaths is astonishing, but for each suicide death, it’s estimated that 25 others attempt suicide.
  • Men die by suicide 3.53 times more frequently than women.

For teens and young adults:

  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10 – 24.
  • Each day, there are 3,041 attempts at suicide by teens in 9th – 12th grades.

How to Prevent Suicide

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has created five steps that we can use to help prevent suicide. As part of their campaign during the month of September, they want everyone to know and share these steps and to start using them.

Ask

Suicide is a sad and painful topic. We don’t know what to say, so it feels easier to avoid talking about it. I have noticed that after a suicide, people will say, “I knew they were depressed, but I didn’t know they were that depressed.”

We need to know how the people around us are feeling or we can’t help them celebrate the times they are happy and support them when they are sad, depressed, lonely, or thinking about suicide. Just ask if they are thinking about suicide. Asking the question lets them know that you are not judgmental and that they can talk to you.

Keep them safe

Keep them safe by removing methods of suicide. In 2015, 22,018 suicides were committed with a firearm. That’s about 50% of the total number of suicides.

But in this tip, we are also advised to keep the conversation going. If your loved one has told you they are thinking about suicide, ask if they have a plan and if they have already gotten ahold of whatever means of suicide their plan includes. If they have, remove the method.

Be there

Connection with others is often one of the main factors between someone who commits suicide and someone who does not. Feeling isolated and alone can hurt anyone and simply being a friend can help a person choose to stay alive.

If you’ve also already started the conversation about suicide, you are providing them a safe, judgement-free place where they can talk about their feelings, which will make them feel more connected.

Help them connect

Help them connect to support services. This could be helping them connect to a support line, like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), or to therapists and counselors that they can see on an ongoing basis. There are also apps like My3, which help create a list of people to call in a moment of crisis.

Follow up

Keep in contact with your loved one. Keep the conversation about suicide open. Reach out and check in on them regularly, ask them how they are doing, and go beyond the answer “Fine.” Again, connection is so important, and they need to know that you care.

If you or a loved one is struggling with suicidal thoughts, there are a variety of places to get help, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255. These support services are available to the person considering suicide, or the loved one who is worried, or as a survivor of suicide loss.

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