Suicide prevention month: How to overcome suicidal thoughts or assist someone else
This story discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please contact the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Suicide is a leading cause of death in America. Suicide was the cause of 49,500 deaths in 2022, a 2.6% increase from the prior year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The month of September is dedicated to suicide prevention.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) recognizes the month as “a moment in time in which we rally the public to create awareness of this leading cause of death and inspire more and more people to learn how they can play a role in their communities in helping to save lives.”
It adds, “Suicide prevention is important every day of the year. National Suicide Prevention Month gives us an opportunity to shine a special, encouraging light on this topic that affects us all and send a clear, hopeful message that help is available and suicide can be prevented.”
The messages shared and resources provided during National Suicide Prevention Month continue throughout the year.
If you know someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts or you are struggling yourself, here are things you can do to show support for another in your life or help yourself.
Call 911 right away if you are at immediate risk
If you are at an immediate risk, do not hesitate and call 911 immediately.
Call or text 988
The Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is 988 and provides support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The hotline was first established in 2001, but the country just transitioned to the quick, easy-to-remember three-digit dialing code in 2022.
You can call or text this number whenever you need immediate support.
Talk about your feelings with those close to you
Never forget that you are not alone. Take the step of reaching out to loved ones and expressing your feelings to them. Talking about your feelings can be a huge weight off your shoulders, and it is extremely important that the people in your life know what you are going through. Taking this difficult step can give you a needed line of support from those who love you.
Seek out the support of a mental health professional
Mental health professionals are a resource that can help you work through your feelings, cope with your thoughts and provide medical care.
Grant yourself kindness
During difficult times, it is even more important to give yourself grace and show yourself kindness. This can be in the form of doing something you enjoy, like getting a coffee at your favorite café or cuddling up with a blanket on the couch to watch your favorite show.
Don’t be hard on yourself, and allow yourself to continue doing the things you like to do.
Take time to write about things you are looking forward to in the future, the people in your life that mean something to you and simple things that bring you joy.
Practice mindfulness and steady breathing techniques
When you’re feeling overwhelmed or feel anxiety rising in your body, practice mindfulness and steady breathing. This looks different for everyone, but just a short meditation can go a long way.
Practice steadying your breathing, with long breaths in and out, to calm your body and your mind.
Focus on your five senses
One grounding technique that many find helpful is focusing on the five senses: touch, sight, hearing, taste and smell. You can do this by writing down one thing you can touch, taste, hear, taste and smell, or you can focus in more on each of these senses.
For example, sit outside and listen to the surrounding sounds. You could squeeze an ice cube and feel it as it melts in your hand. Suck on a sour lemon and focus on the taste. Focusing on senses can calm the body down.
Allow yourself time in your safe space
Think about what your safe spaces are, and go there in times when you are struggling.
Your safe space might be your bedroom, or it could be with a certain person. When things are getting difficult, take time in the place that brings you a sense of safety and calm.
Familiarize yourself with the warning signs
Everyone should know some of the common warning signs associated with suicide.
Some warning signs include talking about plans for suicide, increased anxious behavior, talking about feeling like a burden, trapped or hopeless, increased use of alcohol or drugs, sleeping too little or too much, withdrawal from social activities, sharing thoughts of a hopeless feeling about the future and extreme mood swings.
Call 911 if the person is at immediate risk
If someone you know is at risk, or you think the person is at risk, call 911 and get help immediately.
Encourage the person to call or text 988
Talk to the individual about the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. Explain that the line is open 24/7.
Help get professional help
Encourage them person to get professional mental health help. It is a step in the right direction that the individual has reached out to you and is expressing feelings, but it’s important that the person talks with a mental health professional, too.
Getting professional help can be scary, so help the person get connected with a professional and offer to take him or her to the first appointment so the person doesn’t feel alone.
Be an active listener
Always be an active listener and express that someone is never alone. It can be difficult to reach out for help, and if someone has chosen you to reach out to, it means that person has great trust in you and needs your support.
Provide that person with support by listening to his or her feelings and continue to have follow-up conversations.
Be a positive presence in the person’s life
Continue to be a positive presence in the person’s life. Be someone who can be counted on. If someone has strayed away from social interactions, continue to invite the person out and encourage him or her to spend time with others. This can help them avoid feelings of isolation.
Be a safe space
Continue to be a safe space for the person who came to you. Make sure the person knows he or she can always talk to you.
Provide resources and be someone who can be trusted.