Suicide is a major mental health concern that devastates lives and causes unimaginable pain. In fact, in 2020, suicide was the 12th leading cause of death in the U.S., with nearly 46,000 people dying this way. What can we as mental health professionals do to help conquer this issue?
We need to understand better the clinical reasons behind the decision to commit suicide. Suicide doesn’t have a clear etiology, and many factors influence whether a person will become suicidal, including their neurobiology, personal and family history, stressful events they may have experienced, and sociocultural environment. However, suicide can be viewed as “a behavior motivated by the desire to escape from unbearable psychological pain.” Psychological factors, including personality and emotions, also contribute. Interestingly, decision-making impairment seems to be an increasingly important influence.
It's critical that we promote within our own organizations and communities the fact that suicide is preventable. Years ago, researchers found that almost half of people who commit suicide visit a primary care doctor within 1 month of death but don’t admit to or consult with the doctor about any suicide intent or ideation. Many people who commit suicide are social and active—they are struggling under the surface and do not seek help.
September 5–11 is National Suicide Prevention Week. This week, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) encourages everyone to put the topic of suicide prevention top of mind. Make sure your patients, clients, and students know about suicide risk factors, warning signs, and what they can do to prevent suicide. And be sure to emphasize the new three-digit phone number for the Suicide Prevention Lifeline—made active across the country in July: 988.
For more information about what you can do this week to promote suicide prevention, visit this site.
If you are treating patients and need more information about tools you can use for assessing suicide intent, visit our mental health resources page.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, you are not alone. Dial 988 to reach the Suicide Prevention Lifeline for immediate help, 24/7.
Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. Yet, 93% of adults in the U.S. think suicide can be prevented. The week surrounding September 10—World Suicide Prevention Day—is hailed as National Suicide Prevention Week. Here are some ways you can get involved with suicide prevention:
Learn the 5 steps and share them with others. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) breaks down 5 ways anyone can help someone who may be suicidal. Although clinicians are trained in suicide prevention, most individuals don’t know where to begin. Share these steps so more people have awareness. NSPL even offers graphics that you can use to share on your social channels.
Add a square to this virtual memory quilt. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) offers a digital memory quilt. Whether you add a square for a lost loved one or simply view the stories and photos, this online remembrance is a powerful reminder of the impact of suicide.
Participate in an Out of the Darkness walk. AFSP holds community walks across the country—more than 400 are currently planned for this fall.
Ask for support! The National Alliance on Mental Illness provides extensive resources via phone or chat. Though not a crisis line, they offer a nationwide peer-support service that offers referrals and support. This page also offers a list of resources that can be used in an emergency.
Take part in an online training session. The American Association of Suicidology offers a listing of clinical trainings and online events intended for professionals.
Show support online. You can find prewritten social posts, graphics, and videos that you can use on your own social media accounts, as well as digital banners and Zoom backgrounds here.