September: Suicide Prevention Month

Every year, tens of thousands of Americans take their own lives. This is a serious public health concern, and it’s one of the main reasons September is recognized as Suicide Prevention Month. Suicidal ideations are far too often swept under the rug or treated as if they’re taboo. This international month of recognition tries to change that and let people know that there is hope.

The History of Suicide Prevention Month

While speaking up about suicide in the open is a relatively recent development, this tragic outcome has always been a problem in society. The oldest suicide note in existence dates back to 1900 B.C., but people no doubt engaged in this behavior before that time. The stigmatization of the act kept related discussion to mere whispers, but that changed in 2003.

Over 3,900 years after the first note was left by a person taking their own life, the inaugural World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) was observed on September 10, 2003. The World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH), World Health Organization (WHO) and International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) collaborated to host the event.

The first observance of WSPD established two points of strategy for suicide prevention:

  1. “The organization of global, regional and national multi-sectoral activities to increase awareness about suicidal behaviors and how to effectively prevent them.”
  2. “The strengthening of countries’ capabilities to develop and evaluate national policies and plans for suicide prevention.”

Two years after this day became internationally recognized, America began to devote an entire week to the issue. Years later, we now observe a full Suicide Prevention Month in September. While devoting a 30 days to recognition of this public health concern is a good start, it’s important that we don’t forget the struggles people are facing regardless of the season.

Death by suicide is completely preventable with the right help. That’s why themes for the recognized day, week and month have been “Take a Minute, Change a Life,” “Light a Candle Near a Window,” “Connect, Communicate, Care,” and most recently, “Working Together to Prevent Suicide.”

All these themes deliver messages of hope – because when it comes down to brass tacks, there is reason to hope.

Suicide Statistics

While there are an increasing number of options available for individuals suffering from depression and suicidal ideation, Suicide Prevention Month doesn’t minimize this public health issue as if it’s not a concern. Statistics show that suicide has remained one of the ten leading causes of death throughout the world, and unfortunately, the problem seems to have only gotten worse.

The National Center for Health Statistics found a 35 percent increase in the suicide rate between 1999 and 2018 in America. As other leading causes of death have decreased over the years, incidents of victims ending their own lives have gone up. Suicide rates are their highest since World War II, and there are many theories as to why this is occurring:

  • Social isolation has increased among Americans.
  • Technology has replaced face-to-face interactions.
  • Rates of mental health issues have been on the rise.
  • Slowed economic growth and rises in cost of living.
  • General anxiety over seemingly constant societal upheaval.

Of course, all of these are simply theories. Whatever the cause, Suicide Prevention Month hopes to bring awareness to the issue. It cannot do this, however, without acknowledging America’s particular problem. The increase in suicide rates in America isn’t happening everywhere. In fact, many countries have seen reductions in these rates over the years.

When the first World Suicide Prevention Day took place, the organizers certainly didn’t foresee the problem in America only worsening after decades of active measures to reduce these numbers. While explanations of the problem in the U.S. would only be speculative, the statistics do show that there are several risk factors that increase the danger of suicide:

While some of these statistics may seem hopeless, there is actually a silver lining. Suicide Prevention Month is creating awareness of this tragedy, and this means public health experts have been striving to find a better way forward.

Suicide is Preventable

While 54 percent of those who die by suicide have no diagnosed mental health issue, depression is still considered a significant contributor. Fortunately, there are plenty of treatments available for this. In fact, constant progress has been made over the years regarding prevention of suicide regardless of the underlying cause.

Doctors and researchers at Henry Ford Hospital, for instance, conducted a 10-year study on suicide prevention. By employing several interventions, they were able to observe an 80-percent drop in suicide rates. It turns out that the reduction in stigmatization created by Suicide Prevention Month may have had an effect – because the study shows that when people get help, suicide rates drop.

There are many forms of treatment that can help:

  • Treatment of substance or alcohol abuse disorders.
  • Family therapy, education and support.
  • Psychotherapy to identify underlying issues and manage emotions.
  • Medications that can reduce mental health symptoms.

Suicide Prevention Month aims to make sure these services are available to those who need them. It’s important to note, though, that no two individuals are exactly alike. Treatment plans need to be customized to the person rather than the underlying condition. When patients are treated on an individual basis, their chances of survival greatly increase.

Raising awareness of this issue has also created other positive benefits. The widespread use of suicide barriers, for instance, has proven to be successful and reduced deaths in areas they’re utilized. All that some people need is a single hurdle in their way to give them time to rethink a permanent decision. Even more exciting is the fact that brain imaging has gotten us closer to understanding who is truly at risk.

Know When It’s Time to Seek Help

If there’s one lesson to take away from Suicide Prevention Month, it’s that no one should feel ashamed for having these thoughts. People still do, however, and it’s no surprise that suicide rates are higher among men. They’re taught from a very early age that showing any “weakness” is unacceptable, and this often equates to them being afraid to seek help.

Far too many people also don’t get help until after a suicide attempt. In best-case scenarios, these individuals avoid permanent damage and go on to live happy and healthy lives. In many cases, though, irreparable harm can occur. The facts we know, however, paint a clear picture of those who survive suicide attempts.

  • 9 out of 10 people who survive suicide attempts will not later die from suicide.
  • The majority of people who die from suicide have not previously attempted it.
  • Young age, personality disorders and alcoholism are risk factors for re-attempts.

If you’re experiencing hopelessness, changes in personality, a lack of enjoyment for things you once loved, suicidal thoughts or any other symptoms of depression, the time for action is now. Suicidal ideation isn’t something you should be ashamed to seek help for. At Transformations Treatment Center, our mental health counselors and certified professionals are ready to help.

Let this Suicide Prevention Month be the last one you or a loved one suffer in silence. Contact us today to learn about our unique and proven treatment options.

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