September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Every year, many health professionals, advocates, mental health organizations, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the SAM Foundation, along with individuals across the nation, join together to raise suicide prevention and awareness.
Although these same organizations and groups work to raise awareness year-around, September is dedicated to engaging and educating the public about suicide prevention and warning signs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is a serious public health problem that can have lasting harmful effects on individuals, families and communities. The goal of suicide prevention is to reduce factors that increase risk and increase factors that promote resilience.
The Alabama Department of Mental Health reports the COVID-19 pandemic has increased anxiety, depression, suicide and substance use this year.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has imposed significant psychological and social effects on everyone. This month we are emphasizing the importance of suicide prevention and the stigma surrounding emotional and mental challenges,” said Alabama Department of Mental Health Commissioner Lynn Beshear.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, stated the CDC, and was responsible for more than 48,000 deaths in 2018. Prevention reports revealed that 40% of adults said they had struggled with mental health issues or substance use issues during late June.
Beshear said due to the pandemic, their providers have increased alternative means of access, such as telehealth. She said they continue to be a beacon of light to individuals in need and help family members understand the signs and symptoms of suicidal iterations.
The SAM Foundation, a local non-profit organization that focuses on suicide prevention through public awareness and education, encourages individuals to practice self-care and reach out to others during the current health crisis.
They reminded the public that people should provide support and remind each other that no one is alone as a community.
As the nation continues to face the COVID-19 pandemic, Alabama Department of Mental Health Prevention Services Director Beverly Johnson said with the levels of uncertainty, emotional distress and anxiety that can occur, they want to provide the support and necessary referral resources to those who need it.
“We observe the month of September to raise public awareness of suicide prevention. The annual observance yields much needed attention to such a priority area of focus for individuals and communities that we utilize those platforms throughout the year to promote emotional well-being and resource availability,” she said.
According to the ADMH, veterans are 1.5 times more likely to die by suicide than Americans who never served in the military. For female veterans, the risk factor is 2.2 times more likely.
Suicide prevention information is vital to share with veterans, as their experiences can heighten crises during military services. If you’re a veteran or service member and in crisis, call the Veterans Crisis Line for help at 1-800-273-8255.
As reported by the CDC, suicide affects all ages and is the second leading cause of death for people 10 to 34 years of age. It’s the fourth leading cause among people 35 to 54 years of age and the eighth leading cause among 55 to 64 years of age.
Prevention ideally can occur at all levels, including individual, relationship, community and society.
Many advocating organizations, such as the SAM Foundation, offer training programs to teach people to recognize the warning signs and follow a “question, persuade and refer (QPR)” approach.
A Virtual QPR Suicide Prevention Training with Paul Crawford is set for Saturday, September 26, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. For additional information, visit www.samfound.org.
While suicide is not always predictable, the Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides the following risk factors which are characteristics that make it more likely that someone will consider, attempt or die by suicide:
• Mental disorders
• Alcohol and other substance use
• Impulsive and/ or aggressive tendencies
• History of trauma or abuse
• Major physical illness
• Job or financial loss
• Family history of suicide
• Lack of healthcare, especially mental health and substance abuse treatment
Along with the risk factors, it is also important to know and identify the “warning signs” that may help you determine if a loved one is a risk for suicide, especially if the behavior is new, has increased, or seems related to a painful event, loss or change.
The following are some warning signs provided by the CDC:
• Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
• Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
• Increased used of alcohol or drugs
• Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
• Withdrawing or isolating themselves
• Extreme mood swings
There are various prevention strategies and protective factors to help buffer individuals from suicidal thought and behaviors that center around the following:
• Strengthen economic supports such as household financial security and stabilization
• Seek and strengthen access for mental health care
• Create protective environments
• Promote connectedness and community engagement activities
• Teach coping and problem-solving skills
• Identify and support people at risk
• Lessen harms and prevent future risk by postvention and sefe reporting and messaging about suicide.
This year’s campaign is #BeThe1To, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s message this month and beyond to help spread the word about actions we can all take to prevent suicide.
The ADMH encourages everyone to learn how to help someone in need, and they also provide training. For information on this training, contact Katie Beaugez at 205-677-6116 or visit www.ASPARC.org.
Visit www.samfound.org, www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org, www.ASPARC.org for additional resources, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for 24/7, free, and confidential support 1-800-273-8255.