Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, a time to change the perception of this stigmatized, and often taboo, topic. In addition to shifting public perception, we use this month to spread hope and vital information to people affected by suicide.

About Suicide Prevention Awareness Month:

Suicidal thoughts, much like mental health conditions, can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background. In fact, suicide is often the result of an untreated mental health condition. While suicidal thoughts are common, they should not be considered normal and often indicate more serious issues.

Throughout the month of September, NAMI will highlight our “Together for Mental Health” campaign, which encourages people to bring their voices together to advocate for better mental health care, including an effective and accessible crisis response system. NAMI wants any person experiencing suicidal thoughts or behaviors to have a number to call — and a system to turn to — that will connect them to the treatment and support they need.

Here are some statistics regarding mental health conditions and suicide prevalence:

Individual Impact:

  • 79% of all people who die by suicide are male.
  • Although more women than men attempt suicide, men are nearly 4x more likely to die by suicide.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10–34 and the 12th leading cause of death overall in the U.S.
  • The overall suicide rate in the U.S. has increased by 35% since 1999.
  • 46% of people who die by suicide had a diagnosed mental health condition.
  • While nearly half of individuals who die by suicide have a diagnosed mental health condition, research shows that 90% may have experienced symptoms of a mental health condition.

Community Impact:

  • Annual prevalence of serious thoughts of suicide, by U.S. demographic group:
  • 9% of all adults
  • 3% of young adults aged 18-25
  • 8% of high school students
  • 45% of lesbian, gay and bisexual high school students
  • The highest rates of suicide in the U.S. are among American Indian/Alaska Native and non-Hispanic white communities.
  • Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are 4x more likely to attempt suicide than straight youth.
  • Transgender adults are nearly 9x more likely to attempt suicide than the general population.
  • Suicide is the leading cause of death for people held in local jails.

*Data from CDC, NIMH and other select sources.

Know The Warning Signs 

Distinguishing “normal” behaviors from possible signs of a mental illness isn’t always easy. There’s no simple test to label one’s actions and thoughts as mental illness, typical behavior or the result of a physical ailment.

Each illness has its own symptoms, but common signs of mental illness in adults and adolescents can include the following:

  • Excessive worrying or fear
  • Feeling excessively sad or low
  • Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
  • Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria
  • Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
  • Avoiding friends and social activities
  • Difficulties understanding or relating to other people
  • Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
  • Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don’t exist in objective reality)
  • Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality (”lack of insight” or anosognosia)
  • Overuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
  • Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)
  • Thinking about suicide
  • Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
  • An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance

Mental health conditions can also begin to develop in young children. Because they’re still learning how to identify and talk about thoughts and emotions, children’s most obvious symptoms are behavioral.

Symptoms in children may include the following:

  • Changes in school performance
  • Excessive worry or anxiety; for instance, fighting to avoid bed or school
  • Hyperactive behavior
  • Frequent nightmares
  • Frequent disobedience or aggression
  • Frequent temper tantrums

 Resources/Calls To Action 

  1. Crisis Response Tools
  • If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 988 immediately.
  • If you’re uncomfortable talking on the phone, you can also text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line.
  • 988 Resources
  • Navigating a Mental Health Crisis – GUIDE
    • Talk openly and honestly. Don’t be afraid to ask questions like: “Do you have a plan for how you would kill yourself?”
    • Remove means such as guns, knives or stockpiled pills
    • Calmly ask simple and direct questions, like “Can I help you call your psychiatrist?”
    • If there are multiple people around, have one person speak at a time
    • Express support and concern
    • Don’t argue, threaten or raise your voice
    • Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong
    • If you’re nervous, try not to fidget or pace
    • Be patient


*Data and information was courtesy of NAMI*

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