Suicide Prevention Awareness Month (Part II): Stop a Suicide Today Resources
Exacerbated by the global COVID-19 pandemic, the risk of suicide continues to increase as a result of mental health stressors like economic pressures and isolation. This September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in the United States, and in an effort to support and spread awareness of this mental health crisis, we’ll be sharing information on organizations that advocate for and provide resources to those affected by suicide on the PRMS blog. This month, PRMS is pleased to highlight the work of and resources provided by Stop a Suicide Today.
We all too often hear stories in the news about the growing numbers of suicides in the U.S. We read about the deaths of celebrities or of young children and react with shock and sadness, but don’t consider that this could ever be us or anyone we know. Besides, preventing suicide is the job of mental health professionals, and there’s very little that we ourselves can do, right? Wrong! Over 40,000 people commit suicide each year, and the majority of these people never seek treatment – which means that we as parents, children, siblings, partners, and friends are, in fact, exactly the ones to help prevent a suicide.
So how do we do this? What should we be watching for, and what should we do when we see it? There are so many sources of information, how do we know where to begin and what information we can trust?
An excellent place to start is Stop a Suicide Today. Created by Harvard psychiatrist Doug Jacobs, MD, along with a group of distinguished colleagues, the program was created as a resource for clinicians and lay people alike using sources from clinical consensus, academic journals and books, and organizations, such as the CDC, NIMH, WHO, APA, AAP, ACOG, AFSP, MHA, and NAMI.
According to the website, the rate of suicide deaths in the United States has increased by 35% over the past 20 years, with the rates increasing most rapidly in rural areas. In 2018, there were 48,344 recorded suicide deaths in the U.S. A person dies by suicide every 40 seconds – that’s 132 deaths per day. Given these numbers, it’s important that everyone educate themselves on the topic of suicide risk and know what steps to take when we are faced with someone who may be at risk for suicide. Fortunately, Stop a Suicide Today has compiled that information for us.
Identify Risk and Take Action
A feature of the website is a suicide risk inventory that allows users to anonymously determine whether they or another person may be at risk for suicide. When risk is identified, users are provided with information on how to take action – including calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or texting HOME to The Crisis Text Line at 741741. Also included is information on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s #BeThe1To initiative, which provides individuals with 5 Action Steps for assisting those who may be suicidal:
- Ask whether they are thinking about suicide
- Keep them safe by reducing their access to lethal means
- Be there for them
- Help connect them with support
- Follow up to see how they are doing
Another tool – the Learn to ACT® guide – educates users on what to do if they find that someone is considering suicide. ACT stands for Acknowledge, Care and Treatment. The guide provides suggestions for starting the conversation with someone who may be at risk for suicide and tells us what to avoid doing. Also included is a list of the Top 10 Reasons You Might Not ACT (But Should!).
For those who may be battling depression or know someone who is, there is information on various types of treatment including medication, psychotherapy, and brain stimulation techniques.
Resources for Specific Populations
The Stop a Suicide website includes a wealth of resources for specific populations such as service members, veterans and their families, LGBTQ+Youth and their families, and those suffering from perinatal and post-partum depression. There is also information on bullying, as well as tips on how to access suicide prevention information on popular social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
Resources for Mental Health Professionals
Stop a Suicide Today is also an excellent source for mental health professionals. Clinicians can find information on suicide screening and assessment tools, links to APA guidelines, information on treatment modalities, safety planning, interventions and continuity of care, postvention, and treatment of special populations such as children and adolescents, the elderly, and military/veteran populations.
You Can Make a Difference
During these stressful times, as we do what we can to help those in need, we must not forget to include emotional needs. Take a few moments and read over the information contained on the Stop a Suicide site. Not only will you learn a great deal, but you also may stop a suicide today.
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Authored by PRMS.