September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. As of 2017, suicide was the tenth leading cause of death in the US and second for people ages 10-34. Those numbers increase when looking at LGBTQA+ youth. That year alone, there were twice as many suicides as homicides in the US. Globally, 79% of suicides occur in low- and middle- income countries (DoSomething).
These facts and figures are collected on DoSomething.org, a site dedicated to sharing information on suicide and sharing resources for active campaigns both online and off. “About 50% of people in the US know someone who has died by suicide in their lifetime” (DoSomething). Whether you know someone, might know someone, have struggled with suicidal thoughts, or are simply moved to action by the staggering facts about this problem, there are many ways you can help.
The suicide prevention lifeline website is an outstanding resource for getting educated and getting involved with suicide prevention. Their “participation” page lists many ways to get involved with suicide prevention and awareness, as well as linking incredible resources.
If you have suffered from suicidal thoughts or attempts, talk to a healthcare professional before getting involved in prevention and awareness for others. Volunteering often involves helping others in crisis; you need to make sure that your needs are met and that you protect yourself from triggering activities.
Whether or not you have mental health challenges of your own, volunteering also often requires training. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention includes links to many different types of training for volunteers. Training is also available for counselors, educators, and healthcare professionals looking to learn more about suicide prevention and awareness.
Donate More than Just Money
One simple way to get involved is to donate to an organization. There are both national groups and smaller local crisis centers that work with people suffering from suicidal tendencies and ideations all year round. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline itself “…is made up of a national network of local crisis centers, which answer all calls to the Lifeline as well as calls from their local communities.” Their site also has links to local crisis centers across the country.
If, for whatever reason, the only support you can provide is financial, these groups are already set up to take donations. Don’t be afraid to ask where your donation will go, how it will help those in crisis, and whether there are other types of contributions that would also help. Maybe the center needs printer paper, new landline phones, or software for their computers. They may also benefit from businesses donating old office furniture or other supplies that would otherwise get thrown away.
You can even donate your data to help the group Qntfy with mental health and suicide research. Signing up on their website allows them access to whatever social media accounts you choose to link. Qntfy collects your public content to better understand how we interact on social media—a major, but unexamined element in mental health. The site explains “We use your data to build datasets to enable scientific research that we hope will enhance human understanding of mental health, and most importantly to directly empower interventions. Scientific breakthroughs are often based on collaboration, and that depends on having a common data set.” (OurDataHelps)
If you have been personally affected by suicide, whether you lost someone or have struggled with it yourself, opening up can be a good way to help. There is a lot of stigma around the topic of suicide, and sharing your personal journey, if you are comfortable and it is safe to do so, can lessen that stigma for others. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline has a checklist that can make this process safer for both yourself, and those with whom you are sharing.
The Lifeline explains that “For every one person that dies by suicide, 280 people seriously consider suicide but do not kill themselves. These stories of hope and recovery have the power to help others through a crisis and dispel stigma and myths about suicide… Regardless of whether or not you choose to share your personal story of recovery, know that you are a member of a community of survivors that spans across the country and the world. Stories like yours help give hope to others” (Suicide Prevention Lifeline).
Sharing is not a simple process, however. The Lifeline site shares resources for before, during, and after your share. First, you should decide if you’re ready to speak, how you want to share your story, what you want to share, and preparing to share safely and effectively. Stories with graphic details of harm are often triggering, while sharing resources about help and healing is much more valuable. In general, the Lifeline recommends you “Focus on hope and healing rather than pain” (Suicide Prevention Lifeline). After you’ve shared, the Lifeline explains that your impact will continue. You should be prepared for others to reach out to you, knowing your boundaries for further sharing, and having resources ready if they or you need them.
These are just a few ways to get involved during September and beyond. Knowing how suicide affects you and your community is the beginning of what could be a very long but very fulfilling journey towards prevention and healing.
“11 Facts About Suicide.” DoSomething.org, www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-suicide.
“Get Training.” AFSP, 2 Aug. 2017, afsp.org/take-action/get-training/.
“Participate.” Suicide Prevention Lifeline, suicidepreventionlifeline.org/participate/.
Qntfy, Inc. “OurDataHelps–FAQs.” OurDataHelps, ourdatahelps.org/faq/.