Content Warning: Suicide // This article discusses suicide, a topic that may be upsetting or disturbing for some readers. Readers are encouraged to take the necessary steps for their emotional safety. Please seek professional help if you experience suicidal thoughts and/or tendencies. Resources can be found at the links below.
Suicide is a public health concern and a significant cause of death in the US. Nearly 46,000 Americans took their own lives in 2020, and over 12 million people contemplated or attempted suicide that year. Even more worryingly, suicide rates have been climbing steadily since 2000.
The number of deaths per 100,000 total population.
Image courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Despite suicide being a preventable cause of death, thousands still take their own lives each year because there is tremendous stigma around getting help. A lack of awareness around identifying suicide warning signs and the treatment options available compounds this problem. Suicide prevention is a community effort – each individual plays a part. When more people are aware of the signs that indicate suicidal tendencies and the channels available to seek help, we can prevent these deaths. That’s why we are sharing suicide prevention resources in line with Suicide Prevention Month.
Warning Signs of Suicidal Behavior
Deciding to end their life is a drastic decision – not one that most people take lightly. Suicidal persons often exhibit certain warning signs before making any attempts. While there is not one single indicator that characterizes people contemplating suicide, certain actions, expressions, and behaviors may alert us to their state of mind to step in and offer support.
People who are experiencing suicidal thoughts may show warning signs in their speech, behavior, or mood. They may talk about wanting to die, having no reason to live, or being a burden to others. They may engage in risky or dangerous behavior, start giving away possessions or making a will, or withdraw and isolate themselves from others. They may display aggression, depression, anxiety, or a sudden and extreme change in their mood.
These changes may be subtle or overt but paying close attention to those around us can help us detect these warning signs before it is too late.
Tips to Prevent Suicide
Suicide is a complex problem. Individual, societal, structural, and systemic factors contribute to a person’s decision to end their life. As such, preventative measures include promoting individual resilience and wellness, identifying and supporting at-risk individuals and groups, responding effectively to crisis situations, and providing assistance to those affected by suicide. In addition, we must also address underlying systemic and structural contributors to suicide such as poverty, oppression, and marginalization.
The stigma around seeking help for mental health issues coupled with a lack of understanding, empathy, and education around this sensitive topic can also increase the risk of suicide. Having access to resources, tools, and support is crucial to reducing the number of people who take their lives annually.
Finding Suicide Prevention Resources
Finding resources to help and knowing where to turn can be challenging in a crisis situation. We’ve compiled a helpful list of resources so you can find the right support when needed. Some federal agencies also offer resources for identifying health care providers equipped to help persons contemplating suicide and extend help in finding low-cost health services.
- 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: Launched on 16 July 2022, this 3-digit dialing code connects callers to a national network of crisis centers offering support to people experiencing emotional distress or suicide crisis for free. It also provides additional resources for specific at-risk groups such as attempt survivors, individuals with neurodivergence, and the LGBTQ+ community.
- Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA): Working to improve access to health care, you can find information on affordable healthcare local to you.
- Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS): CMS has information on its website about the benefits and eligibility for health programs under Medicare and Medicaid / CHIP, as well as details on how to enroll.
- The National Library of Medicine (NLM) MedlinePlus: An online health information resource, NLM’s website has directories and lists of organizations that can help in identifying health practitioners for specific needs.
Mental Health Resources for Suicide Prevention
There is a shortage of mental health providers in the US. Knowing where to look for resources can be exhausting for anyone at risk of suicide and those supporting them. Here are a few resources you can turn to for information related to mental health or to find a mental health provider near you.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): Aimed at reducing the impact of substance abuse and mental illness in the US, SAMHSA provides information on treatment facilities and programs available. You can get general information and locate local treatment services via their national helpline at 1-800-622-HELP (4357).
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA): Dedicated to the prevention, treatment, and cure of anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders, ADAA’s website features a wealth of resources. These include content on education and awareness, as well as finding a therapist, telemental health services, and peer support communities.
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA): Centering people with mood disorders, DBSA provides information on treatment options, support groups both in-person and online, and crisis management resources.
- Mental Health America (MHA): A community-based non-profit dedicated to bettering the lives of those living with mental illness and mental health concerns, MHA presents information to support every stage of an individual’s mental health journey. You can find all kinds of resources, from screening tools to building mental fortitude to recovery and treatment options on their website.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): This grassroots mental health organization has 600 local affiliates and 49 state organizations working to raise awareness about mental health. They provide resources and education to those in need.
Resources to Prevent Suicide Among Specific Communities
Certain populations are disproportionately affected by and at risk for suicide. There are dedicated resources designed to address specific concerns of these groups. Here are a few such resources for some at-risk groups.
- Mobile Apps that support Mental Health and Wellness Among Veterans
- Arizona Coalition for Military Families
- America’s Warrior Partnership
- Objective Zero Foundation
- The Mission Continues
Native Americans / Alaskan Natives
- It Gets Better Project
- Trans Lifeline
- The Trevor Project
- LGBT National Help Center
- Need Support? | PFLAG
Learn More About Suicide Prevention Tips & Warning Signs
We all have a part to play in preventing suicide. By being aware of the warning signs that someone may be contemplating suicide and being equipped with the resources available to help them, we can all contribute to combating this public health issue. As a first step toward being prepared to address crisis situations and support someone with suicidal thoughts, you can take a suicide prevention course online to learn more.
#1 Premiere Continuing Education offers a variety of courses around suicide prevention catered to professionals in different industries. All of these courses are also available and suitable for members of the general public who are interested in learning more about suicide prevention and supporting those at risk.
Check out the courses available: