Each year, in the second week of September, mental health organizations in the United States and around the world take the opportunity to start a conversation and raise awareness about one of the most devastating outcomes of poor mental health – Suicide.
September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day
The World Health Organization (WHO) has a page dedicated to World Suicide Prevention Day.
September 8 to 14, 2019 is National Suicide Prevention Week
The Health Resources and Services Administration provides up to date information about National Suicide Prevention Week.
“[Suicide] is a growing American tragedy,” Dr. Albert Wu, a professor of health policy at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said in an NBC News interview. “It has become a leading cause of death in the U.S., and is a major public health problem.”
In fact, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, taking the lives of 129 people per day, reports the Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
It might come as a surprise to much of the public that adolescents are not the most at-risk demographic for suicide.
Research shows that in the last 17 years, from 1999 to 2016, the majority of Americans that took their lives were white, middle aged adult males, though it’s important to note that suicide does not discriminate. It affects people of all genders, ages and ethnicities.
What are the Risk Factors for Suicide?
It is virtually impossible to predict who will actually act on thoughts of suicide. This is why it is incredibly important to be aware of some of the major causes that drive people to end their own lives.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the leading risk factors for suicide can include some of the following:
- Prior suicide attempts
- Substance use disorder, such as alcoholism or drug addiction
- Mental health disorders like depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Family history of domestic violence or sexual abuse
- Having guns in the household
- Traumatic exposure to other suicides, either in the home, among a peer group or by a high profile media figure
While there’s a tendency to believe that people who commit suicide suffered physical or social isolation, this is not always the case.
The Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, reports that 45 percent of suicide victims had contact with their primary care provider within a month of their death.
Because poor mental health is so often stigmatized, people can be hesitant to seek help and in the throes of mental anguish, a person contemplating suicide rarely realizes that it is not a victimless act.
Suicide Prevention Campaigns and Awareness
Suicide leaves destruction in its wake. Family members, friends and colleagues dealing with a loss due to suicide struggle, often for the rest of their lives, with feelings of guilt, shame and regret that they didn’t notice the problems ahead of time.
Public awareness and suicide prevention campaigns can be have an enormous impact on public health just by educating communities.
Everyone needs to understand that common issues of depression, anxiety, PTSD, addiction and other mental health issues can increase the risk of suicide among the general population.
Communication is key. By simply asking a loved one, friend or colleague that may appear to be struggling, “Is everything okay? How can I help?” may be a lifeline that saves a life.
For World Suicide Prevention Day and National Suicide Prevention Week, take the opportunity to learn about the many suicide prevention resources and educational events available to the general public, as well as for those who might be quietly suffering.
Nobody needs to die from suicide.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline