September is National Suicide Prevention Month.
According to the World Health Organization almost 800,000 people a year commit suicide. That means every 40 seconds someone takes their life. These are the only ones on record. So we know that the numbers are actually higher than reported.
In the US men complete suicide 3.4 times more often than women according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. However females were 1.4 times more likely to attempt suicide. Men use more lethal methods. A little over 50% of the completed suicides were by gunfire.
It is the 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 10-34, and the 4th leading cause of death for people 35-54. In 2018 over 43,000 Americans killed them self, and 1.4 million people attempted. That number of attempts is huge. This indicates a tremendous amount of distress in people. The vast majority of people who commit suicide have a diagnosable mental health disorder prior to completing suicide.
Because of all the losses due to COVID, unknowns for the future due to the pandemic, racial injustice, and divisiveness of our country, more people are at risk. People have fewer connections due to the pandemic. Clients that I work with who are struggling with substance use say the online meetings are not nearly as helpful as in person meetings. There is something so critical about that human connection.
Talking about suicide
Many people have had thoughts about suicide at one point or another in their life. Others may wish they were dead, or wouldn’t mind if they died, but have no plans to actively take their life. Others do have a plan and some attempt. People often don’t talk about these thoughts of suicide due to the shame and stigma of it.
It is not easy to talk about. If you suspect someone is thinking about it, you might fear asking. You may think that you don’t want to put the idea into that person’s head. Mentioning it will not give them the idea. It may help them to talk about it and seek help.
Most people who are planning to do it give cues that they are thinking that way.
The Center for Disease Control names 7 ways to prevent suicide in communities by lowering risk factors and raising protective factors.
7 ways to help with suicide prevention
Increase support of the economy
This includes improving people’s financial situations and providing stabilization of housing. Remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. One of our greatest needs is for shelter and security.
Improve access to mental health care
One way to do this is to be sure people have mental health coverage with their insurance. Also there needs to be more therapists in underserved areas.
Construct protective environments
This means decreasing any lethal means from people who are at risk. Ways to do this would be to remove any access to guns from the home, or any pills that can be used to overdose on.
In addition, excessive alcohol use increases the risk. People make impulsive decisions while under the influence. Alcohol and guns are a lethal combination.
Feeling disconnected is a huge risk factor. Connecting people to others is key to suicide prevention. We want people to know that they are not alone. Just having someone there for you makes a huge difference.
Provide tools to cope and solve problems
This can be done on the family or community level. They say suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. We all go through difficult life experiences and most people get through them. Difficult emotions are like waves. They may be strong or knock us over at their peak, but eventually they calm down.
Determine those at risk and provide support
Having a mental illness, a recent death or break-up and substance abuse are all risk factors. Those who identify as LGBT are also at greater risk.
Talk to people who are struggling. Sometimes just having someone who will listen can make the difference between life and death.
Decrease harm and prevent risk in the future
This involves providing support to family members who have been affected by suicide. Knowing someone who has completed suicide can be a future risk factor.
My hope is that you will never be in the situation where you are a loved one attempts or completes suicide. It is devastating for family members and they will never be the same after it. If someone mentions to you that they are suicidal, take it seriously and get help.
Below are some resources for suicide prevention from the Houston Chronicle.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
Legacy Community Health 832-548-5000
Crisis Text Line Text HOME to 741741
Menninger Clinic 713-275-5400 The Menninger Clinic is providing a free webinar on suicide prevention. It features Sergeant Kevin Briggs who has helped prevent hundreds of people from jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. It is Wednesday, September 16th at 1 pm central time.
Trevor Lifeline for LGBT people under 25 1-866-488-7386 or text START to 678678
Trans Lifeline for transgender people 1-877-565-8860
Veterans Crisis Hotline 1-800-273-8255 or text 838255
If this is something you need help with, are thinking of suicide, or know someone who is, please use the resources above or call me at 713-304-6554 and we can get you set up for a session.