September marks the end of summer and the beginning of fall—a favorite time of year for many. Our sports teams are gearing up for action, and the holiday season draws closer. As much as there is to look forward to, there’s just as much to keep in mind: After all, September is Suicide Awareness Month.
Suicide Awareness Month is an important chance for us each to understand how suicidal thoughts can be identified, prevented, and treated. The resounding theme of Suicide Awareness Month is the importance of providing support and compassion to those dealing with mental health conditions or life circumstances that may leave them vulnerable to suicidal thoughts and self-harm. By remaining vigilant and empathetic, we can all do more to help prevent suicide.
What Color Is Used for Suicide Awareness Month?
Yellow is the color used in Suicide Awareness Month ribbons, though some organizations have taken to using blue and purple, as well. You can draw attention to Suicide Awareness Month by sharing links to resources (which we’ve included below), printing information to display in gathering places like foyers or offices, and informing those within your community, work environment, and friend circles.If you’re in a position to promote September as Suicide Awareness Month at your workplace, university, school, or other location, you could make more of an impact on someone’s life than you realize.
Why Do We Need Mental Health Awareness?
Unfortunately, mental health issues are still highly stigmatized. Despite the widespread prevalence of mental health conditions and the real need for treatment, some people view therapy or psychiatric services as something used by lesser, weaker people. Or, their families, coworkers, and friends may object to them seeking the help they need or want, standing in the way of treating the conditions that, if left unchecked, can lead to thoughts of suicide.
Mental health awareness initiatives serve to educate and help prevent mental health conditions from being ignored while highlighting treatment options and spreading hope.
Who Is at Risk for Suicide?
As mentioned above, some mental health conditions increase the risk of one developing self-harming or suicidal thoughts. Depressive and anxiety disorders (or undiagnosed chronic anxiety and depression) are some of the most common contributors to suicidal ideation. That’s because of the extreme emotional strain these conditions can place on an individual. But beyond those suffering from anxiety and depression, other commonly at-risk groups include:
- Adults aged 44-54, who account for 80% of all suicide deaths in the U.S.
- Elderly men ages 80 or older
- People with a history of social isolation and physical violence
- Those with access to life-ending means, such as firearms, drugs, or toxins
- Youth—suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people ages 10-24
- LGBTQ youth, who are four times more likely to seriously consider a suicide attempt
- Veterans, who are 1 and a half times more likely to die by suicide than other Americans
People in these groups may not feel supported by other people on a variety of fronts, increasing their risk of suicide. They may also experience significant life transitions or experiences that create unique and extraordinarily difficult mental health challenges for them.
If you're experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings, please get immediate help. Call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or go to your nearest emergency room.
Book a SessionCall: 988
How to Identify Suicidal Thoughts
It’s just as important to identify suicidal thoughts in others as it is yourself. Some warning signs that you or someone else is contemplating self-harm or suicide may include some combination of the following:
- Unexpected shifts in mood, often elation or sadness
- An intense state of anxiety
- Changes in behavior, routines, or a disrupted sleeping pattern
- Using drugs or alcohol recklessly
- Giving away or selling belongings, or creating a will in an attempt to get their affairs in order
- Searching for a gun or substances (such as sleeping pills) that could aid in a suicide attempt
- Recent history of depression, panic attacks, or anti-social behavior
- Psychomotor agitation, such as pacing, twisting hair, or clenching fists
- Writing or otherwise saying goodbye to friends and loved ones without specifying why
- A substantial loss of enjoyment from activities like socializing, exercise, social interaction, or sex
Perhaps the most obvious way to identify suicidal thoughts is if you or someone else expresses a desire or wish to die. Sometimes, we speak out of line; some of us may jokingly and morbidly state a desire to die or end our life when we’re frustrated or tired—but dark humor is not always so easily discernible from suicidal ideation.
Why Is Suicide Prevention Significant?
Suicide prevention is significant mainly because it helps stop people from ending or attempting to end their life. Suicide prevention helps stop those who are in a desolate, hopeless mental state from making a decision that will forever affect them and their loved ones.
However, suicide prevention efforts are also a straightforward way to destigmatize discussions surrounding self-harm and suicidal ideation. Suicide Awareness Month can then serve as a way for those who are struggling with thoughts of self-harm to come forward and seek out the resources that are available to help them recover.
What Treatment Options Are Available to Someone Experiencing Suicidal Ideation?
Even though suicidal ideation may create feelings of hopelessness and despair, people who are suffering from these thoughts aren’t without treatment options. This means that reaching out for a provider’s assistance is the first step of treatment. With this in mind, some of the most successful, tried and true therapeutic methods for treating suicidal ideation are:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy for suicide prevention (CBT-SP/ CT-SP)
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
- Attachment-based family therapy (ABFT)
- Collaborative management and assessment of suicidality (CAMS)
- Prolonged grief therapy (PGT)
Additionally, psychiatric providers can be of great assistance for more severe or persistent cases of suicidal ideation. Successful psychiatric treatment may involve the following medications:
- Antidepressants, including SSRIs
Both therapists and psychiatrists are fantastic resources and the best way to find relief and remission from a state of suicidal ideation, but for immediate assistance, a crisis line or support center is a better option. Knowing who to call could just save your life, or someone else’s.
What Crisis Resources Are Available?
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger due to suicidal ideation or is in danger of harming themselves or others, 911 is a quick and reliable way to connect with first responders. But more specific hotlines, crisis lines, and crisis text lines are included below. The following are suicide and crisis lines available year-round, but should be highlighted during Suicide Awareness Month:
- Dial 988 *Veterans, press 1 when calling*
- Text HOME to 741741
- Send a text message to 838255
- Dial 1-855-838-8255
- Dial 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
- Dial 1-866-488-738
It can be difficult to ask for help—but doing so could save your life.
How Do I Ask for Help?
When it comes to mental health conditions, it’s not uncommon to seriously debate whether to seek out professional assistance, despite mental health services being a genuine form of medical treatment. You probably wouldn’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with your doctor for a source of chronic pain—yet the consistent emotional pain of suicidal ideation or self-harming behaviors can be just as damaging, but are often ignored.
Asking for help with mental health challenges and conditions that are causing emotional distress is important. Steps to consider when asking for help include:
- Being honest and open about the struggles you’re facing related to suicidal thoughts, actions, or self-harming behaviors.
- Creating enough time and space to reach out for assistance. You don’t want to feel rushed or pressured.
- Finding a mental health professional who can help and offer compassion and empathy. Thriveworks has therapists and psychiatrists who are available to meet with you, often within 48 hours or less.
- Remembering that feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and shame aren’t productive or realistic emotions to place on yourself.
There’s nothing wrong with seeking out mental health services—anyone can benefit from talking to a provider. It doesn’t mean that someone is weak, dependent, or incapable of solving their mental health conditions or concerns. What scheduling your first psychiatry or therapy session means is that you are prioritizing your emotional well-being, placing your needs first, so that you can remain independent, successful, and (most importantly) happy in your daily life.