World Suicide Prevention Day is held each year on September 10 in an effort to promote awareness about suicide. This international day of awareness has been celebrated each year since its inception in 2003. The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) works in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) to host this important day aimed to spread awareness about suicide as well as take action to prevent suicides.
According to the IASP, one of every 100 deaths across the globe is from suicide. Each suicide profoundly impacts those around them and is devastating to loved ones and communities. World Suicide Prevention Day aims to do the following:
- Reduce the stigma associated with suicide
- Raise awareness of suicide
- Promote action by proven methods to reduce both suicide and suicide attempts.
This year, the IASP announced their theme for World Suicide Prevention Day for 2021-2023. This theme is “Creating hope through action.” The theme reminds everyone that there are alternatives to suicide and aims to promote confidence and the light in all of us.
And hope is needed now more than ever.
With more than 41,000 deaths from suicide annually in the United States, the need for awareness of warning signs and actionable steps to help prevent suicide are both vital to decrease these devastating and concerning numbers.
Risk Factors for Suicide
Just as each person is unique, each case of suicide or suicidal ideations is also unique and complex. The factors contributing to an individual’s suicide, suicide attempt, or suicidal thoughts are specific to them. However, there are certain contributing factors and life events that may make someone more vulnerable to suicide as well as mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Both of these mental health conditions increase the vulnerability of an individual for suicide.
Additionally, many individuals who consider or commit suicide have other components in common. A person with suicidal thoughts or attempts may feel any of the following:
- Like a burden to family and friends
- Without other options
If you or a loved one are struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide there is help and there is hope. If you are in an immediate crisis contact your local emergency services or call the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255. This 24/7 hotline provides free, confidential support for people in distress as well as resources and support for loved ones.
As mentioned, there are numerous factors that play into whether a person is higher risk for suicide than the next. One individual may have several of the risk factors but not be suicidal, anohter may have none but attempt suicide. There are no set ways to tell if someone will commit suicide but certain life events and situations can predispose them to it. Here are some of those according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Substance use disorder
- Prior suicide attempt
- Socially isolated
- Mental health issues particularly depression
- Serious illness
- Trouble in any of the following:
- Work or school
In addition to these individual factors, there are other factors such as how the individual grew up and the community resources they have. These can include:
- Experiencing childhood abuse and neglect
- Family history of suicide
- Domestic or sexual violence
- Divorce or experiencing the end of a relationship
The community in which an individual grows up and lives can also play a role in suicide. Some of the community factors can include:
- Inability to access health care including mental health care
- Cluster suicides in the community
- Cultural beliefs
- Stigmas associated with mental health issues and suicide
- Easy access to means to committ suicide
- Romanticizing suicide in the media, movies, and books
Suicide is devastating and impacts the person’s loved ones, friends, family, and even the entire community. This effect on the community can be seen, in part, in suicide clusters. A suicide cluster is when there are a greater than expected or average number of suicides or suicide attempts during a close period of time.
These cluster suicides mostly impact vulnerable teens and young adults. When this happens, one suicide can set off another, and so on. This problem has been seen more frequently in communities across the nation.
It’s imperative for community members to know the warning signs, the risk factors, and where to go for help for themselves or someone else. This is why World Suicide Prevention Day and National Suicide Prevention Week (September 5-11, 2021) are so important. When communities come together to support those struggling and help prevent suicide, their neighborhoods, towns, and our entire nation is healed and strengthened. It’s up to each one of us to get involved and help those who need it the most.
The flipside of risk factors is protective factors. These are factors that decrease a person’s risk of suicide. Research into these protective factors isn’t extensive yet, however, data shows that there are certain things communities and individuals can do to help decrease the risk factors and increase the protective factors. Some of these include increasing the following:
- Coping skills
- Problem-solving skills
- Cultural beliefs discouraging suicide
- Religious leaders discouraging suicide
- Connections with family and friends
- Support in the community
- Availability of physical and mental health providers
- Limited access to lethal means for at-risk individuals
When these are increased in communities, vulnerable groups have a better chance of seeing other options to suicide.
It’s important to note that being isolated from family, friends, and social interaction can increase a person’s risk for suicide. As a result of COVID-19 and the mandates for quarantining as well as suggestions to limit exposure to others, mental health problems, including depression and suicide, have grown.
And while all this may seem daunting, there is hope and help. Getting involved to help yourself, your loved one, and your community is crucial in order to reverse this dangerous growth in suicide across not only our great nation but the world.
Substance Use Disorder and Suicide
While the rise in suicide amongst younger age groups is gaining more awareness, it’s important to know about the groups that are most vulnerable to suicide. According to the National Institute on Health (NIH), substance use disorder was the most frequently found mental health disorder in suicides. In fact, estimates are that between 19% and 63% of all suicides had a substance use disorder. Alcohol use disorder was the most frequently found.
In addition to those individuals with substance use issues, there are other groups who seem to be vulnerable to suicide. These include:
- American Indians and Alaska Natives
- People in prisons or criminal justice systems
- Youth in child welfare systems
- Individuals who engage in self-harm behaviors
- Members of the armed forces and veterans
- LGBTQ+ community
- Men in midlife
- Older men
Men are four times more likely than women to die by suicide and Americans between the ages of 45 and 54 years old are more likely than any other age group to die by suicide.
If you or someone you love is struggling with suicidal thoughts, depression, or an alcohol or substance use disorder Futures Recovery Healthcare wants to help. Futures treats adults with substance use issues, co-occurring disorders, and mental health issues. We offer three substance use disorder treatment programs as well as an inpatient unit solely dedicated to the treatment of certain mental health conditions.
How to Help: Be Part of the Solution
In alignment with the 2021-2023 theme for World Suicide Prevention Day, “Creating hope through action” there are certain things you can do to be part of the solution to the suicide problem facing our nation and world. Getting involved is a great way to spread awareness, break the stigma, and ultimately help to save lives
Here are some steps you can take suggested by the IASP:
1. Reach in.
No matter how small, each act of caring and kindness can go a long way. From holding a door with a smile to asking a family member or friend how they are doing, we each can play a role in preventing suicide. Taking the time to ask someone how they are feeling and doing is the first step. When someone who is feeling depressed and suicidal feels like another person cares, they may be less likely to take their life. When you reach in, you don’t have to have all of the answers or right words to say. It’s taking the time to show you care that can go a long way.
Listen without judgment, without trying to tell the person they shouldn’t feel that way. Holding space and creating that connection with someone who is struggling can help far more than most people realize. If you are concerned about how to approach the conversation, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline offers resources and suggestions for those individuals concerned about someone who may be suicidal.
2. Encourage understanding.
Breaking the stigma associated with suicide, mental health, and substance abuse are key in creating compassionate communities in which individuals struggling feel comfortable reaching out for help. So many people struggling with suicidal thoughts have no one to turn to, no one to talk to about how they feel. Many times, this is because of the stigma surrounding these subjects—particularly suicide. Recognizing that suicide is a real part of life and encouraging others to show compassion and understanding about this tough subject is vital to changing the narrative. We all can do our part to create a more caring society in which all are supported.
3. Share experiences.
Hearing from others about how times, when they have felt the same way, is a cornerstone of healing and hope. When others share their stories of suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts it helps those struggling know they aren’t alone and also see that there are other options and life can—and does—get better. This is the foundation of many support groups including 12-Step groups which have stood the test of time and helped thousands navigate tough times and come out on top.
As the theme so poignantly states, ‘creating hope’ is vital. Hope can inspire and change lives. One changed life, one saved life can save another, and so on. If you want to learn more about International Suicide Prevention Day or get involved visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention or visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for ways to help locally.
If you or someone you love is struggling with suicidal thoughts or have attempted suicide but still are struggling, there is help and there is hope. Futures is here for you offering compassionate, evidence-based care for mental health disorders. Contact us today online or call 866-804-2098.