September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that, overall, the number of deaths by suicide increased 2.6% from 2021 to 2022, making suicide one of the leading causes of death in the United States.
With September being National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, LaToya Smith, an assistant professor and licensed counselor at Palo Alto University, offered the following warning signs of suicidal behavior and tips on how to help someone who is suicidal.
“Suicidal thoughts or actions should not be ignored,” said Smith. “If someone you know is exhibiting warning signs, the tips below can help you better communicate with the individual and guide them in seeking the professional help they need.”
Warning Signs of Suicide
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are many signs that may signal an individual is experiencing suicidal thoughts. Although some of these warning signs may not lead to a suicide attempt, it is best to be safe and help the individual obtain professional help. Here are some of the warning signs of suicide risk.
An individual may talk about:
- Wanting to die or kill themselves.
- Feeling empty or hopeless or having no reason to live.
- Feeling trapped or that there are no solutions.
- Feeling unbearable emotional or physical pain.
- Being a burden to others.
- Death or think about death often.
They may also:
- Withdraw from family and friends.
- Give away important possessions.
- Say goodbye to friends and family.
- Put affairs in order, such as making a will.
- Take great risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast.
- Look for ways to kill themselves, such as searching online for lethal methods, stockpiling pills, or buying a gun.
- Use alcohol or drugs more often.
- Show rage or talk about seeking revenge.
Additional warning signs that are specific to youth include:
- Having a peer or friend who has died by suicide.
- Having suffered a recent humiliation or embarrassment (e.g., bullying, breakup).
- Exhibiting a decreased quality in schoolwork.
Ways to Help Someone Who is Depressed and Suicidal
- Stay calm and talk to your friend or loved one.
- Acknowledge the individual’s feelings.
- Help them stay safe.
- Seek professional support.
Remember, it’s important that you don’t try to handle the situation alone. You want to encourage the individual to obtain professional help as soon as possible. You’ll want to ask if they have any current professional support (a health care professional and/or licensed mental health professional) and advise them to make an appointment. With their permission, you could call their provider and request to set up an appointment. In an emergency, it is best to call 9-1-1. If the individual is not trying to actively harm themselves, you can take them to the nearest emergency room.
- Call or text the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 9-8-8 for 24-hour confidential support.
- Text HELLO to 741741 for free and confidential support 24 hours a day throughout the United States.
- Veterans Crisis Line: Call 800-273-8255, ext. 1, or text 838255 for 24/7 support.
- Disaster Distress Hotline: To receive immediate counseling, call 800-985-5990 to connect with a trained professional from the closest crisis counseling center within the network. People affected by any disaster or tragedy can call this helpline, which is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.