2019 National Prevention Week – Preventing Suicide

While many people may find suicide difficult to understand, it’s not uncommon; according to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death nationally. In 2016, nearly 45,000 people died from suicide, while 9.8 million adults seriously thought about suicide, 2.8 million made a plan, and 1.3 million made attempts.

This week is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Prevention Week, and today’s focus is preventing suicide.

What are some things that can contribute to someone considering suicide? Here are some risk factors, according to the CDC:

  • Family history of suicide
  • Family history of child maltreatment
  • Previous suicide attempt(s)
  • History of mental disorders, particularly clinical depression
  • History of alcohol and substance abuse
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
  • Cultural and religious beliefs (e.g., belief that suicide is noble resolution of a personal dilemma)
  • Local epidemics of suicide
  • Isolation, a feeling of being cut off from other people
  • Barriers to accessing mental health treatment
  • Loss (relational, social, work, or financial)
  • Physical illness
  • Easy access to lethal methods
  • Unwillingness to seek help because of the stigma attached to mental health and substance abuse disorders or to suicidal thoughts

But even if someone has all these risk factors, there is still hope. Studies have shown promise in that policies and programs that strengthen economic supports, strengthen access and delivery of suicide care, create protective environments, promote connectedness, teaching coping and problem-solving skills, identify and support people at risk, and lessen harms and prevent future risk. In fact, in one study, simply sending a card made a big difference.

“The notes were sent eight times over the course of 12 months to patients who were among the hardest to treat. The majority had histories of trauma, including rape and molestation. Some had made repeated suicide attempts. But Carter found there was a 50 percent reduction in attempts by those who received the postcards. When he checked in on the study’s participants five years later, the letters’ effects were still strong.”

Let’s all work together to reduce suicide by adopting these strategies in ourselves, our families, and our communities. And if you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, it is important to talk to someone and get help. You can call a trained counselor, who will speak to you for free and confidentially, at 1-800-273-8255, or visit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or more information or to chat online.

You matter, and you are worthy of love and belonging.