awareness helps suicide prevention

How Raising Awareness Helps Suicide Prevention Efforts

by Pat Fontana

There is a stigma around suicide that needs to be overcome to help those who are considering attempting suicide as well as their friends and loved ones. It is a topic that most people don’t want to talk about, but it’s been found that raising awareness helps suicide prevention efforts. Understanding the facts and having open and honest conversations might help save a life.

Startling Statistics

The rate of suicides in the US has increased every year since 2006. Over 47,000 people died by suicide in this country in 2019. The CDC estimates that 1.3 million adults attempt suicide every year. Of those who committed suicide, one in five had expressed their intent to someone in their life, such as a friend or family member.

Recognize the Risk Factors

Knowing the risk factors is a key piece of the awareness that can contribute to prevention efforts. A previous attempt is the number one risk factor for someone considering suicide. Other significant risk factors include:

  • Mood disorders
  • Access to lethal means
  • A death of a loved one or a failed relationship
  • History of a traumatic experience or abuse
  • Painful chronic illness
  • Substance misuse.

Although mental health issues are known as a risk factor, the CDC states that 54% of people who died by suicide did not have a known mental health condition. Unfortunately, many of them may have felt challenged by mental health issues that had not been diagnosed or were not made known to friends or loved ones.

Talk About It

Putting the topic of suicide out in the open can help start the conversation that could save a life. Researchers and mental health experts have found that raising awareness helps suicide prevention efforts. The National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) advises that having the conversation with someone who may be considering suicide can be the best way to stop them and to help them get the help they need.

Ask the straightforward question, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” Then focus on listening to the answer, to determine what the individual is thinking and feeling. Research has found that acknowledging and talking about suicide may help to reduce the individual’s suicidal thoughts. It is important to overcome that stigma and put the topic out in the open so everyone can feel comfortable discussing it.

Friends and family members are often the first to see the warning signs of suicide. They have the opportunity to take the first step toward helping someone at risk find the treatment they need. Suicide is not a normal response to stress but rather is a sign of extreme distress. Suicide thoughts or attempts are not a harmless bid for attention. They should not be ignored.

Dispelling Myths

NAMI emphasizes that debunking common myths associated with the topic of suicide can help everyone realize the importance of helping others. Raising awareness of the facts can go a long way toward prevention efforts.

One of the major myths about suicide is that there is nothing a friend or loved one can do once someone has decided to commit suicide. The fact is, when someone is considering suicide, it is often an attempt to control painful and deep emotions and thoughts. When that person gets help with managing those thoughts so that they are less painful, the suicidal thoughts will also usually dissipate. Suicidal thoughts are not permanent. Those who have such thoughts can get help so they can continue to live a long, successful life.

Perhaps one of the most significant myths relates to the stigma associated with suicide. Many people believe that talking about it will just encourage it. In fact, the opposite is true. Talking about suicide allows an individual to share their story and the discussion can lead to them getting the help they need. It’s important to talk about it, to raise awareness, and to have the conversation.

Warning Signs

Another common myth is that suicide happens suddenly, without warning. In fact, there are usually warning signs evident either through the individual’s words or actions. It’s critical when raising awareness to learn the warning signs to help prevent suicide, including:

  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Social withdrawal
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Impulsive or reckless behavior
  • Increased drug or alcohol use.

The following suicidal behaviors warrant a call to a health care provider or to emergency services, such as 911:

  • Tying up loose ends, such as organizing personal papers or paying off debts
  • Giving away possessions
  • Collecting and saving pills or buying a weapon
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family.

South Miami Recovery is Here to Help

At South Miami Recovery, we understand that raising awareness helps suicide prevention efforts. If you recognize the signs and symptoms in yourself or your loved one, please contact us for help. Our professional staff includes licensed mental health professionals and certified substance abuse therapists. We offer HIPAA-compliant telehealth services as well as safe outpatient services during COVID-19 so you can get the help you need. To learn more, contact us today. Call South Miami Recovery at 305.661.0055.