September is Suicide Prevention Month, a time to bring to light some of the dark issues facing our society. The first step to addressing some of these issues is awareness. Let's start with the statistics.
In the U.S., overall:
46% of people who die by suicide had a diagnosed mental health condition — but research suggests that 90% may have experienced symptoms of a mental health condition.
Although more women than men attempt suicide, men are 4x more likely to die by suicide.
Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death overall in the U.S.
Transgender adults are nearly 9x more likely to attempt suicide at some point in their life compared to the general population.
In the U.S., among youth:
Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-14 and the 3rd leading cause of death among those aged 15-24.
22% of high school students experience serious thoughts of suicide.
41% of LGBTQ youth experience serious thoughts of suicide. In fact, , lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are 4x more likely to attempt suicide than straight youth.
But, the statistics cited above only paint a partial picture of the very real impact of this nationwide epidemic. The Centre for Suicide Prevention points to recent research that shows just how widespread the effects of a single suicide can be—that, "up to 135 people are affected to some degree by every person lost to suicide. That number includes all people who have known the deceased."
Last year, in Wisconsin, 888 lives were lost to suicide—a number that translates to nearly 120,000 Wisconsinites in a single year who would have been directly impacted by a completed suicide.
Connection leads to progress
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide, including those who have experienced a loss. AFSP creates a culture that's smart about mental health through public education and community programs, develops suicide prevention through research and advocacy, and provides support for those affected by suicide.
While we have made great strides as a society in talking about mental health, people are often still hesitant to talk directly about suicide. Research has shown that suicide is preventable and the more we openly, honestly, and directly talk about suicide, the more we can help to prevent it.
AFSP recently launched a powerful campaign to prompt direct conversations about suicide in order to save lives. With this campaign titled "Talk Away the Dark,", AFSP strives to show the life-saving impact of simple, direct dialogue about suicide and show people how to initiate those conversations, when they are more important than ever.
988 Lifeline - connecting millions
The 988 National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, a network of more than 200 state and local call centers funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), answered nearly 5 million calls, texts and chats from people looking for help with suicide, mental health and substance use-related crises since launching in July of 2022.
In its first year of operation, the 988 Lifeline increased answer rates: Calls answered increased by 46%, chats answered increased by 141% and texts answered increased by 1135% compared to the same time period from 2021-2022.
Today, a year after the rollout of the 988 Lifeline, HHS and its 988 Lifeline partners announced the addition of Spanish Text and Chat services. Spanish speakers looking for services can press 2 when calling 988, text AYUDA to 988 or chat online at 988lineadevida.org or 988lifeline.org.
Almost 70,000 calls were routed to the Spanish calling subnetwork last year. The 988 Lifeline also uses Language Line Solutions to provide translation services in more than 240 other languages.
Suicidal ideation and suicide risk is not "one size fits all"—rather, each individual will present with different symptoms. Additionally, realizing that someone might be at risk for attempting suicide can be difficult, as the signs of an increased suicide risk are often subtle. Nevertheless, there are common warning signs, which include:
- Talking about being a burden
- Being isolated
- Increased anxiety
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Increased substance use
- Looking for a way to access lethal means
- Increased anger or rage
- Extreme mood swings
- Expressing hopelessness
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Talking or posting about wanting to die
It is important to remember that talking to someone about how they are feeling and asking whether they're having thoughts of suicide will NOT plant the idea in their mind. On the contrary, talking to someone about how they are feeling is a very effective way to prevent a suicide attempt.
Suicide prevention resources
Suicide is a serious public health problem that can have long-lasting effects on individuals, families, and communities. If you, or anyone you know, are experiencing any of the symptoms above, there is help. Calling or texting 988—the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline—will connect anyone experiencing thoughts of suicide, a mental health concern, substance use issue, or any other emotional distress to a trained crisis counselor.
Additionally, HOPELINE, the text service with a network of 2,600 trained counselors across the state of Wisconsin, will continue to help those in crisis. To access HOPELINE, type 741741 in the "To" section of your phone's text screen, type "HOPELINE" in the message area, then click "Send."
In Door County, the local Mental Health Crisis Line—available 24/7—can be reached at (920) 746-2588. Additional local sources of information include your own Employee Assistance Program, accessed through your employer, or the Community Resources tab on the Door County Library website.
If it's an emergency, call 9-1-1 or go directly to the hospital emergency room to avoid a tragedy.
The #1 preventative measure: Talk about it
Suicide is a topic that hides in the shadows. All too often it goes unaddressed, even when we may sense someone is struggling. More information about how to engage in meaningful conversations about mental health can be found at afsp.org/talkawaythedark/#convos.
Suicide prevention is important every day of the year. National Suicide Prevention Month gives us an opportunity to shine a special, encouraging light on this topic that affects us all, and send a clear, hopeful message that help is available, and suicide can be prevented.