By Meghaa Ravichandran
As fall officially begins, it rings in the new school year for many students across America as they start going back to classes and their campuses. With more schools prioritizing mental health as students handle heavy course loads and hours of homework, it is important to spread awareness about events such as National Suicide Prevention Week (NSPW) this month. Taking place between September 4, 2022 to September 10, 2022, NSPW aims to educate the people on suicide prevention and warning signs of suicide.
Before we can begin helping others, let’s educate ourselves on why suicide prevention is so important and the details behind suicidal thoughts. For example, did you know:
- According to 2020 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention 2020)
- Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the U.S.
- More than 40,000 Americans die by suicide
- More than 1 million suicide attempts are done
- The rate of suicide was shown to be highest in middle-aged white men
- 54% of Americans have been affected in suicide in some way
- Most people consider suicide 5 – 15 minutes before undertaking an attempt (CNN Health 2022)
- The common misconception of “suicidal people are selfish and don’t consider the impact of their actions on loved ones” is extremely stigmatizing and harmful
- There is no accurate prediction or specific risk factor for those attempting suicide
- Many considering an attempt believe they are in a painful, irreparable life situation in which suicide is the only option
This alarming knowledge has led to the creation of National Suicide Prevention Month and Week, both taking place in September, with the goals of providing tools and support for those struggling with suicidal thoughts. As active participants within our own communities, we can provide a shoulder to lean on or an empathetic ear for those we think are struggling with their mental health. There are many phsyiological/behavioral factors to watch for in the time leading up to a suicide attempt, but here are a few:
- Exhibiting unusual behaviors with guns, pills, or other lethal items
- Giving away cherished belongings
- Concerning comments referencing death
- Extreme mood swings
- Family or personal history of suicide
- Showing rage or a desire to enact revenge
Knowing warning signs prior to an attempt is helpful, but also supporting loved ones during hard times can make a tremendous impact on their outlook of life by showing them they are not alone and have those that care about them. As an activist or just a good friend, here are some ways that you can get involved on a community level or personal level:
- Find a community walk near you on the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s website.
- Share graphics on social media to inform others about NSPW in English and Spanish
- Tell a trusted adult if anyone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts
- If needed, connect a friend with The 988 Lifeline, a 24/7 mental health crisis hotline for calling or texting
- Learn how to properly and accurately spread information with the researched Framework for Successful Messaging
With these skills in your ever-evolving toolkit, always remember to listen and advocate with an open-mind!