The focus of this month’s blog is of a more serious topic that isn’t often talked about, which is all the more reason to be talking about it: Suicide. September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month- a time to raise awareness, break the stigma, share vital information and spread hope to people affected by suicide1. To clarify, people affected by suicide is not limited to those who have struggled with suicidal thoughts. It includes anyone who has ever known someone who struggled with such thoughts or has been impacted by someone who chosen to take their own life. As a mental health professional, I have had several clients who have struggled with suicidal thoughts, so therefore, I have been affected. What I fear most about working in this profession is losing a client to suicide. Often the client may be experiencing passive suicidal ideation, which means that there are passing thoughts, but they have no plan or intent to act on those thoughts. The risk becomes more serious when a client tells me that they’ve been thinking about it enough that they have a plan and they have access to the mans to carry out that plan. This is considered active suicidal ideation. If a person is in that state, they need extra support to help ensure their safety. Typically, I would involve a close friend or family member to help remove access to the means, and to stay with the person. I would also have a detailed Safety Plan in place that outlined coping skills to use, support people to contact, and crisis resources such as phone numbers to call when in a mental health crisis. Recently 988 has become available nationwide as the new number to contact for mental health, substance use and suicide crises. It’s a simple 3-digit number that people can call from anywhere to get help. As a last resort, if the person’ safety cannot be assured any other way, then they need to go to the nearest emergency room, preferably at a hospital that has a psychiatric unit.

Here are some facts gathered from the CDC and NIMH:                                 

  • 79% of all people who die by suicide are male.
  • Although more women than men attempt suicide, men are 4x more likely to die by suicide.
  • Younger people are at higher risk. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10–14 and the 3rd leading cause of death among people aged 15-24 in the U.S.
  • Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death overall in the U.S.
  • Annual prevalence of serious thoughts of suicide, by U.S. demographic group:
    • 4.9% of all adults
    • 11.3% of young adults aged 18-25
    • 18.8% of high school students
    • 45% of LGBTQ youth
  • In the U.S. American Indian/Alaska Natives have the highest rates of suicide followed by non-Hispanic whites.
  • LGBTQ youth are nearly 4x more likely to attempt suicide than straight youth.
  • Transgender adults are nearly 9x more likely to attempt suicide than the general population.
  • Suicide is the leading cause of death for people held in local jails.

While knowing the facts and statistic can help to raise awareness, I believe that shared personal stories paint a much clearer picture and connect to the heart. I have had the privilege of getting acquainted with Brenda Williams-Denbo through my church community. She endured the pain and trauma of losing her husband to suicide, and has done the work of grieving that loss in a healthy way. Her experience has given her a passion for educating others, as she is a volunteer for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). Please, please take the time to watch at this link as she shares her story, and also share how we can best support those struggling with mental illness and those who have lost a loved one to suicide. It is worth 5 minutes of your time to learn something that could be life-saving. I will be joining Brenda on October 29 at Centennial to do the Out of the Darkness Walk to help raise awareness and support the AFSP. I hope that you might consider joining us by either walking or making a donation. To learn more, click here.


One thought on “September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month”

  1. Mary Ann, thank you for this amazing post and sharing such important information. I so appreciate the good work you do with your patients and your concern for those struggling with suicide. There are resources available through AFSP here in Tennessee, including links to support groups and therapists, as well as our Healing Conversations program for loss survivors like me. will get you started. So grateful to you!

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