Suicide is a serious public health problem, with rates significantly increasing in recent years. Did you know?
- It is the leading cause of death in the United States and led to nearly 46,000 deaths in 2020.
- In 2020, an estimated 12.2 million adults thought seriously about suicide; 3.2 million people made a plan; and 1.2 million people attempted suicide.
- Unfortunately, suicide rates in 2020 were 30 percent higher than in 2000.
Given these statistics, it’s particularly important to acknowledge that September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month (SPAM). During this time, we focus on raising awareness on suicide, a stigmatized and often taboo topic in an effort to change public perception, share vital, life-saving resources, and spread hope.
As a first step in prevention efforts, it’s important to know the warning signs and risk factors for suicide.
Warning signs include:
- Suicidal ideation, or comments like “I don’t matter” or “I wish I wasn’t here”
- Increased substance use, including alcohol and/or drugs
- Social withdrawal or isolation
- Aggressive or angry behavior
- Intense mood swings
- Impulsive or dangerous behavior
Another warning sign includes making plans for suicide, which may involve any of the steps below.
- Collecting or saving pills
- Buying a weapon
- Typing up loose ends, like paying off debts or organizing personal information
- Saying goodbye to family and friends
In addition to warning signs, there are risk factors to consider.
Nearly half (46 percent) of people who die by suicide have a known mental health condition. Additionally, a family history of suicide increases an individual’s risk. Drugs or alcohol can lead to mental highs and lows that increase suicidal ideation. In fact, research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that one in five people who die by suicide had alcohol in their system at their time of death.
Other risk factors include:
- Access to firearms
- A history of trauma or abuse
- Chronic stress
- A recent tragedy or loss
- Gender – More women than men attempt suicide, but men are four times more likely to die because of it.
If someone you love is contemplating or has attempted suicide, it’s important to offer them your support.
Here are a few ways to be prepared for a potential mental health crisis.
- Talk openly and honestly with them. Oftentimes, they’re looking for someone who truly cares about their feelings.
- Remove suicidal means, including firearms and pills.
- If there are multiple people around, speak one at a time in a calm, quiet voice.
- Don’t threaten or argue with them. Don’t raise your voice.
- Be patient.
If you are concerned for a loved one’s safety, it’s important to take action immediately by reaching out to a healthcare provider or calling 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.