World Mental Health Day, 2019 – Focused on Suicide Prevention
This year, World Mental Health Day is focused on suicide awareness and prevention. Someone dies from suicide every 40 seconds and for every suicide there are 20 suicide attempts. Almost 800,000 people die yearly from suicide. It is a grave concern.
Who is at risk of suicide?
Suicide spans all income levels and ages, in fact, it is the second leading cause of death for people aged 15-29 and 79% of suicides in the world are in low to middle-income countries (WHO, 2019).
People with mental health disorders like depression and/or alcoholism are more prone to suicide attempts; however, they are certainly not the only ones. Many attempts or suicides happen in people who did not have a previous mental health issue, they are a result of a life crisis, financial issues, or dealing with chronic illness. Suicide is often an impulsive act and this is especially true in children and teens.
Across the world, people who are living through wars, violence, natural disasters, domestic abuse, or who are isolated or grieving a loss experience a strong link to suicidal behavior.
Research also shows that individuals who are part of a group that is discriminated against are at a much higher risk of suicide. This can include people who are seeking asylum, immigrants, indigenous people, minority populations, and those in the LGBTI community.
For every person who falls into one of these categories, the biggest risk factor for a suicide attempt; though, is a history of previous attempts (WHO, 2019).
What methods are used in suicide attempts?
It’s important to know how people are attempting and committing suicide so that prevention plans can take this into consideration. Globally, 20% of suicides are by self-poisoning with pesticides (WHO, 2019). The two other most common methods are firearms and hanging. In the US, the most common method is firearms and they are responsible for half of all suicides by men.
How can we prevent suicide?
One thing that we know for certain is that suicides are preventable. Of course, that doesn’t mean that every single one can be (or should have been) prevented. What it does mean, though, is that there are concrete steps we can take to bring down the number of suicides throughout the world.
- Start interventions and education about suicide in schools.
- Train more people who work in health care to look for and identify suicidal behaviors/tendencies.
- Hinder access to methods of suicides. This can include guns, medications, and pesticides.
- Identify people who need treatment for mental health and/or substance abuse disorders.
- Provide timely treatment for those identified.
What can I do to help?
While the interventions above are steps that need to be taken by society as a whole, there are things that we as individuals can do to be on the lookout for suicide in those around us, or in ourselves.
- Check-in on loved ones who have a history of mental illness/substance abuse or who have become more isolated.
- Be aware of and work to change any stigmas or biases you have regarding mental health and/or suicide.
- Let those around you know that you are a safe place for them to share their struggles.
- Find someone, or a group of people, to be your safe space to share your own struggles.
- Know the common warning signs of suicide. These include
- Difficulty sleeping
- Increased anxiety
- A history of suicide attempts
- Feelings of self-loathing
- Feeling hopeless
- Anger and agitation
- Using substances more frequently
- Losing interest in things you love
- Risky or dangerous behaviors
- Having suicidal thoughts or making plans for suicide
- Know what resources are there to help. These can include
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255.
- Crisis Text Line – Text “GO” to 741741.
- Local mental health crisis lines can usually be found by searching online for your local Community Mental Health Center.
- If there is an immediate risk to the person, going to the local Emergency Room will allow them to be screened for crisis services in a safe environment.
It’s important that you not only are aware of these warning signs and resources for those you love but also for yourself.
Additional Information on Suicide Prevention
The World Health Organization (WHO) has provided a lot of resources on their website. The following videos are provided by them.
This is personal
Like many people, I have experienced the loss of loved ones to suicide and lived through the after-effects of suicide attempts by those I love. Bill and I have been open about our own mental health issues. He recently wrote about his depression. I have shared on social media mostly about my struggles with PTSD, Anxiety, and Depression. Additionally, I have been hospitalized after a suicide attempt when I was in my early 20s.
Thankfully, I received timely medical intervention and good follow-up care. In fact, I was under the mistaken impression that the mental health issues I had at the time that caused the attempt were “taken care of.”
It has been nearly 20 years since that time but several weeks ago I found myself in need of help. I told my husband and together we created a safety plan with my therapist, made an appointment with a provider that could prescribe medication for depression, and faced it head-on.
I was lucky to have access to medical and mental health care. There are so many people that lack that basic ability. Today, on World Mental Health Day, I hope to use the small platform that I have to let others know that there is help and there is hope. Please join me and work together to help each other and to help ourselves.