September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

suicide prevention month

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death among Americans, and the second leading cause of death in the military.  An average of 20 veterans die by suicide each day. Unlike many other leading causes of death, suicide is preventable. Alarmingly, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the rate of suicide has spiked by 35% since 1999, and it’s still on the rise.

Ignoring this crisis won’t make it go away, yet many people view suicide as a taboo subject. That’s why National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month was created. This month-long observance is a unifying effort among mental health advocates, suicide prevention organizations, suicide attempt survivors, and people like you.

Someone once said, “The person who completes suicide, dies once. Those left behind die a thousand deaths, trying to relive those terrible moments and understand… why?”

In reality, many people have had suicidal thoughts at some point their lives. Feeling suicidal doesn’t mean a person is weak, flawed, or beyond hope. It means they’re in more pain than they can handle alone. The good news is that there is help available.

If someone you care about is suffering from an invisible level agony, they may not directly seek help. That’s why it’s important to know the risk factors and indicators as well as how to help and intervene. Preventing suicide isn’t just about caring. It’s about caring enough.

Risk Factors

  • Having previously attempted suicide
  • Mental or mood disorders
  • Family history of suicide
  • Recent crisis

Possible Indicators of Suicide

  • Talking about death or suicide
  • Calling old friends, particularly military friends, to say goodbye
  • Cleaning a weapon that they may have as a souvenir
  • Visiting graveyards
  • Anxiety, agitation, rage, anger or mood swings
  • Sleeping far too much, or far too little
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Going on a spending spree to buy gifts for family members and friends

How to Help and Intervene

  • ASK. If you’re with someone in a state you think is suicidal, stay calm. It’s recommended you ask the question directly, “Are you thinking of killing yourself?”
  • TAKE CONTROL. Calmly  and gently remove any means that could be used for self-injury.
  • LISTEN. Without offering advice or passing judgement. Just. Listen.
  • SUPPORT. Let the person know you care and that you take their situation seriously.
  • ESCORT. Never leave suicidal person alone. Escort them to a chaplain, behavioral health professional, or primary care provider.

This bears repeating: No matter what you do, don’t leave that person alone.

If you’re reading this for yourself and not a love one, hear this loud and clear:  “Place your hand over your heart. Can you feel it? That’s called purpose. You’re alive for a reason. Don’t give up.”

>> Need help right now? Call The Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, Press 1.  

They’re available 24/7/365

 

Additional Emergency Services:

The National Suicide Prevention/Military and Veteran Lifeline: offers free and confidential support to service members in crisis or anyone who knows a service member who is. The service is staffed by caring, qualified responders from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), many who have served in the military themselves.

Veterans Crisis Line: offers support through the crisis line, online chat, and text-messaging services for all service members (active, National Guard and reserve) and veterans 24/7/365.

 

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About the author

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Caroline Sposto is a writer, actor, and the founder of Savvy Civility, an educational company that specializes in civilian role play training. She has a passion for the arts, education, and small business.