By Kelly Masland
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and I took this as an opportunity to process how I feel about suicide and reflect on how I support those in my life who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts. Last month, Head/Heart engaged in an honest discussion about what suicide brings up for staff and the best ways to support clients who are struggling. It was so helpful to have a safe space to express feelings and hear others’ experiences and thoughts. A lot of stigma is associated with suicide and it can be extremely difficult and painful to talk about.
When you think about suicide, what comes to your mind and how does your body react? Take a deep breath and give yourself a moment to connect with how your body is responding to your thoughts. Are there certain emotions that you can identify and connect with? I encourage you to take a moment to check in with yourself before you engage with this sensitive topic and do whatever is necessary to take care of yourself.
The Latest Data
CDC data recorded the highest number of deaths by suicide in 2022, which is an increase of 16% from 2011 (Saunders & Panchal, 2023). In 2022 alone, there were over 49,000 documented firearm suicides—the most common method of suicide (Saunders & Panchal, 2023). In 2021, suicide death rates among indigenous people, males, and people living in rural areas were highest (Saunders & Panchal, 2023). Transgender people are 12 times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population, and lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than straight youth (NAMI, 2023). Although anyone can be at risk of suicide, it is important to recognize which populations are more at risk and be curious about why and what individual, community, and societal factors may influence health disparities.
Although these don’t account for all the possible risk factors, these are some circumstances that increase the possibility that someone may become suicidal:
- A family history of suicide
- Substance abuse. Drugs can create mental highs and lows that worsen suicidal thoughts.
- Intoxication. More than 1 in 3 people who die from suicide are under the influence of alcohol at the time of death.
- Access to firearms
- A serious or chronic medical illness
- Gender. Although more women than men attempt suicide, men are nearly 4 times more likely to die by suicide.
- A history of trauma or abuse
- Prolonged stress
- A recent tragedy or loss
As I reflect on what this month means to me, and how I can play a more active role in supporting the people in my life who may be struggling, one word kept coming up for me: connection. Connectedness can look like many things, but I believe that having a sense of community and support is so important and is a pillar of well-being. I think it is a key component in suicide prevention. Although September is the dedicated month for suicide prevention and awareness, I want to make concerted efforts to build my community and really connect with those around me all year. I want to build relationships with more people and see how I can be a resource in my community. I also want to become more comfortable engaging in conversations about suicide in hopes of normalizing discussions about it. I hope that we can move away from shame and secretiveness and move towards hope and connectedness.
Below are a few resources to use if you or someone you love is experiencing suicidal thoughts:
- Call or text 988—the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
- Text “NAMI” to 741-741- the crisis text line
- Speaking of Suicide.com- website that provides extensive information on resources for help/talk to someone who is having suicidal thoughts
- My3-A downloadable app that creates a safety plan for those experiencing suicidal thoughts, including whom to contact when having suicidal ideation
- The Buddy Project aims to prevent suicide and to provide self-harm alternatives by pairing teens together
National Alliance for The Mentally Ill, U. S. (2023) National Alliance on Mental Illness NAMI. United States. [Web Archive] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/lcwaN0000280/.
Saunders, H., & Panchal, N. (2023). A Look at the Latest Suicide Data and Change Over the Last Decade. KFF. https://www.kff.org/mental-health/issue-brief/a-look-at-the-latest-suicide- data-and-change-over-the-last-decade/#:~:text=Provisional%20CDC%20data%20show%20that,14.4%20deaths%20per%20100%2C000%20individuals.