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September is Suicide Prevention Month, a month devoted to mobilizing global action for suicide prevention through awareness-building and research efforts. Held annually, the month serves as a reminder of the lives lost to suicide each year and acts as a motivating force to encourage widespread prevention efforts.
  • Every year, more than 800,000 people die from suicide; this roughly corresponds to one death every 40 seconds.
  • The number of lives lost each year through suicide exceeds the number of deaths due to homicide and war combined.
  • It is estimated that during 2012 for each adult who died of suicide, there were more than 20 others who made suicide attempts.

Isolation and intolerable psychological pain that is beyond description can lead to suicidal impulses. The psychological pain that leads each of these individuals to take their lives is unimaginable.

Mental disorders (particularly depression and alcohol use disorders) are a major risk factor for suicide and should be treated with the same gravity as physical illnesses. Community-based organizations can play a critical role in educating community members of the warning signs and risk factors and information on treatment and its effectiveness.

When someone is expressing suicidal warning signs, an important message to remember is ACTAcknowledge the person is experiencing a serious problem, let them know that you Care, and help the person receive proper Treatment. Screening for Mental Health’s suicide prevention website, StopaSuicide.org, features a section about recognizing and responding to signs of suicide. The section teaches individuals how to recognize the warning signs of suicide in family, friends, and co-workers, and how to respond as you would do with any medical emergency. The website also provides the viewer with feedback on what they can do to make a difference in the life of someone they think may be suffering from depression or suicidal ideation.

Studies have shown that social isolation can increase the risk of suicide and, conversely, that having strong human bonds can be protective against it. Reaching out to those who have become disconnected from others and offering them support and friendship may be a life-saving act.

As community-based organizations work to educate community members on the signs and symptoms of suicidality, they should also work to enhance protective factors, as they are an essential element of suicide prevention efforts. Protective factors are personal or environmental characteristics that can reduce the probability of suicide. Protective factors help individuals develop the capacity to cope positively with the effects of risk factors.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, protective factors for suicide can include:

  • Effective clinical care for mental, physical, and substance abuse disorders
  • Easy access to a variety of clinical interventions and support for help seeking
  • Family and community support (connectedness)
  • Support from ongoing medical and mental health care relationships
  • Skills in problem solving, conflict resolution, and nonviolent ways of handling disputes
  • Cultural and religious beliefs that discourage suicide and support instincts for self-preservation

Community-based organizations are in a unique position to make a positive impact on mental health awareness. Suicide Prevention Month can serve as a catalyst for life-saving conversations.

For the latest information on suicide from a global perspective, please view the World Health Organization’s new report.

Materials provided through the CommunityResponse programs by Screening for Mental Health can assist in community resilience building and suicide prevention efforts. For more information visit the recently updated Screening for Mental Health website, MentalHealthScreening.org or browse the new online shop at Shop.MentalHealthScreening.org.

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