Connect. Communicate. Care.
Did you know suicide affects over 7 million Americans each year? In the United States, 50% more people die by suicide than by homicide. National Suicide Prevention Week begins September 5th and runs through September 11th. September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day. This year’s message is, “Connect. Communicate. Care.” We can reduce the number of suicides and prevent individuals from becoming suicidal by working together through awareness, promotion, and education.
Nearly everyone thinks of suicide at some time during their life. Risk factors for suicide include mental illness, substance abuse, previous suicide attempts, hopelessness, access to lethal means, recent loss of loved ones, unemployment, and vulnerability to self-harm. Most everyone decides to live because they realize that the crisis is temporary, but death is not. People in crisis often see themselves as unable to get out of their situation and feel a loss of control.
Suicide knows no boundaries and affects all genders, races, and religions. Over 1 million people attempt suicide each year. It is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. The risk for suicide is higher for persons with a mental health diagnosis, especially depression and alcoholism. A person’s hopelessness is a better predictor of suicide risk than any diagnosis.
Here are a few other facts regarding suicide in the United States:
- Nationally, one suicide occurs on average every 12.3 minutes;
- Over 5 million living Americans have attempted suicide in their lifetime;
- An estimated 4.8 million additional Americans are survivors of suicide of a friend, family member, or loved one;
- Whites are two times more likely to attempt suicide than non-whites;
- 13.4 persons out of every 100,000 attempt suicide nationally while 15.7 out of every 100,000 attempt suicide in Kansas;
- 10.8 Native Americans out of every 100,000 attempt suicide;
- Kansas has the 22nd highest suicide rate in the nation, is 17th highest for suicide attempts among people age 65 or older, and 28th highest for youth age 15-24 years;
- Each year, more than 21,300 men and women kill themselves with a gun that was kept in the home, allegedly for safety; two thirds more than the number who use a gun to kill another person;
- Females attempt suicide 3 times more often than males but males complete suicide 3.5 times more often than females.
Now that we know the facts, how can we prevent suicide? Taking a cue from this year’s campaign, we can connect, communicate, and care for people experiencing thoughts of suicide.
Connection should be a two-way conversation. Take the time to hear the stories of those who have recovered from a suicide attempt. Learn how they moved through their journey to recovery. Create opportunities for social connection to reduce suicide in your community. Create connection points and direct people to supports like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Foster open communication. Talk about suicide but don’t normalize it. Craft careful messages that let people know that they are heard and communicate supports available. Equip people to communicate at their own pace in the way that best works for them. Show compassion and empathy in your communication.
Care grows protective factors in people. High self-esteem, social connectedness, problem-solving skills, supportive family and friends are all examples of factors that buffer against suicide and suicidal behaviors. Show you care by providing a safe environment, build trustworthy processes, and provide resources. Take the time to reach out to those affected by an attempt or experiencing loss.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis or having thoughts of suicide there are resources available to help.
Call the National Suicide Prevention at 800-273-8255, TTY: 800-799-4889, or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org to chat with a Lifeline counselor. The call is confidential and free.
Stay tuned this week for more information on suicide prevention and resources available to teens and adults.
Lindsey Stillwell, LMSW