September is National Suicide Prevention Month, a time when companies, schools, non-profits, other groups, and communities unite to highlight mental health advocacy, allyship for survivors, and promote suicide prevention. According to the World Health Organization, over 700,000 people die by suicide each year. Worldwide rates have decreased, but unfortunately the U.S. is one country where suicide has increased in recent years.
The key to lowering suicide rates is effective prevention:
• Teaching people how to recognize suicidal behavior.
• Providing compassion and connecting people who are at-risk with resources, especially mental health counseling and support groups.
• Reducing stigma around seeking mental health, increasing the likelihood someone who is struggling will ask for help.
Myth: We should not talk about suicide.
Fact: Many people find talking about their suicidal feelings to be a source of support. It can help someone connect to the appropriate resources, understand their feelings better and explore ways to move forward.
Myth: Suicide only impacts certain people.
Fact: Suicidal thoughts and actions can impact anyone. Suicidal behavior is complex and there is no single cause. Many different factors contribute, and early detection of symptoms can prevent them from worsening.
Myth: Talking about suicide encourages someone to take action.
Fact: Talking about suicide in a safe and supportive way can reduce the risk of suicide.
Myth: If someone wants to end their life, there is nothing anyone can do to stop them.
Fact: With help and professional support, many people recover from suicidal feelings.
If someone you know is talking about suicide or showing other warning signs, talk about it. Most of the time, people who are considering suicide are willing to discuss their feelings if someone asks them out of concern and care. Some things you could say include:
• “I have been concerned about you and want to see how you are doing.”
• “How can I help support you right now?”
• “Are you thinking about suicide?”
• “Can I help connect you with professional support?”
If someone is threatening to engage in suicidal behavior, communicates they are close to acting on a suicidal impulse, or if you strongly believe they are in immediate danger, there are steps which can help you manage the crisis.
1. Take the person seriously: stay calm and remain present.
2. Express concern and listen attentively without judgement.
3. Ask direct questions, and if they have a specific plan for suicide.
4. Urge professional assistance: if you think someone is in immediate danger, seek urgent attention—reach out to Canopy or a local suicide prevention hotline.
5. Stay connected: follow-up to establish ongoing support and demonstrate you genuinely care about their wellbeing.
Supporting a person who has suicidal thoughts can be emotionally draining, so be aware of your own feelings and coping skills. These are challenging conversations to have with people you care about. Remember to provide yourself with support and reach out for professional care if needed.