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National Suicide Prevention Month and Ways to Provide Help

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. It is a good time for all of us to check in on our own mental health as well as the mental health of our friends, family members and coworkers. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide rates have increased between 2000 to 2021. In fact, suicide was the 9th leading cause of death in 2021 for people ranging in age from 10 to 64.  The CDC also notes that 48,183 persons died by suicide that year, which is about one death every 11 minutes. 

The CDC estimates that over 12 million adults considered suicide in 2021, and of that group, 1.7 million attempted suicide. It’s important to place that information in context, however. At that time, the COVID-19 pandemic was still in effect but more and more people were getting vaccinated. The world was beginning to return to some sense of normalcy. 

Many people suffered job losses during the pandemic, which caused them to experience depression. For example, a job loss can lead to financial problems and a buildup of negative feelings about one’s life and self-worth.

Suicide statistics vary by gender, age and ethnicity. The CDC notes that between 2021-2022, deaths by suicide rose overall by 2.6% but fell 8.4% among younger people ages 10-24 and 6.1% among people of American Indian or Alaska Native heritage.  

How to Prevent Suicide

The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline has many tips for helping someone with suicidal thoughts. If you know of a friend, a family member, or coworker who suffers from negative thoughts and is considering a suicide attempt, there are various strategies you can use.

For instance, ask them how they are in a caring way, listen to them talk without judgement and make sure they have a support system.  In addition, make sure that person remains safe by ensuring they don’t have access to lethal items like guns, knives or pills.

If you are experiencing mental health issues, thinking about suicide or concerned about a family member or loved one, you can call or text 988 for help. In addition, you can chat with a trained crisis counselor at Services are available in English and Spanish, as well as for the hearing-impaired.

How to Detect When Someone Is Suicidal

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has many tips for common warning signs of mental health problems. Examples of the warning signs include:

  • Feelings of deep sadness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mood changes
  • Excessive anger
  • Substance abuse
  • An inability to function in daily life

NAMI has also created an instructional video to help people recognize the signs of mental health issues.

Suicide Impacts Everyone

Suicide and suicide attempts impact not only the person, but that person’s friends, relatives and coworkers. Afterward, other people are left behind to grieve the loss and forever wonder if they could have helped. 

The CDC has developed a Prevention Resource to help reduce the number of suicides and suicide attempts. This document focuses on three components:

  • Strategies to prevent suicide
  • Approaches for each strategy
  • Policies, programs and practices to help prevent suicide 

The University also has resources to help current students and others struggling with their mental health, including:

Everyone has a role to play in helping to prevent suicide and suicide attempts. By checking in on our families, friends and co-workers, we may have a far-reaching impact on their lives by letting them know we are there for them in times of need. That support could be even a simple action such as sitting down to listen to them about their daily struggles over a cup of coffee. Your emotional support could make a difference and provide the incentive a suicidal person needs keep pushing forward. 

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Dr. Hoban earned her Ph.D. in cellular molecular biology and physiology from Georgia State University in 2008. She earned her MPH degree in 1997 from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. Dr. Hoban has worked in maternal and child health and vaccine-preventable diseases. She was the project director for the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) in Georgia for over six years and was also the project director for the Georgia Immunization Study for over seven years. Dr. Hoban has numerous published articles based on her work in both vaccine-preventable diseases and maternal and child health. She is also currently a peer reviewer for the Maternal and Child Health Journal.

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