September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were almost 50,000 suicide deaths in the U.S. in 2022. That’s the highest number ever recorded by the CDC.
The good news is that suicide is preventable. While these numbers are hard to swallow, it’s important to understand them. We know the subject of suicide is hard to think about—let alone talk about—but awareness is one of the most important things you can do to help prevent suicide.
Being aware of the risk factors, the warning signs and resources available is one of the most impactful steps you can take so you can help your loved ones, or yourself, if needed. We have outlined warning signs to be aware of and actions you can take to help someone in your life that may be struggling.
Warning signs to be aware of
The behaviors listed below may be some of the signs that someone is thinking about suicide.
If they are talking about:
- Wanting to die
- Great guilt or shame
- Being a burden to others
If they are feeling:
- Empty, hopeless, trapped, or having no reason to live
- Extremely sad, more anxious, agitated, or full of rage
- Unbearable emotional or physical pain
If you notice changes in behavior, such as:
- Making a plan or researching ways to die
- Withdrawing from friends, saying goodbye, giving away important items, or making a will
- Taking dangerous risks, such as driving extremely fast
- Displaying extreme mood swings
- Eating or sleeping more or less
- Using drugs or alcohol more often
If these warning signs apply to you or someone you know, get help as soon as possible, particularly if the feeling or behavior is new or has increased recently.
What you can do to help
If you feel someone in your life is struggling, there are several things you can do.
- Talk to them: Talk to them about how they are feeling. Asking about suicide won’t cause or increase suicidal thoughts, or cause the person to act on them. It may help them feel less isolated and scared. It may also allow you to see how you can help.
- Be there without judgement: Individuals are more likely to feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful by after speaking to someone who listens without judgment. If someone tells you they are suicidal, take them seriously.
- Create a safe space: A number of studies have shown that when lethal means are made less available or less deadly, suicide rates by that method decline, and frequently suicide rates overall decline. Make sure guns or other weapons are not accessible at home, keep alcohol and other drugs out of the home and store medications safely.
- Stay connected: Studies indicate that helping someone at risk create a network of resources and individuals for support and safety can help them take positive action and reduce feelings of hopelessness. Whether it’s a support network of family and friends or a trusted network of mental health professionals and community resources, staying connected is important.
- Follow up: Supportive, ongoing contact is an important part of suicide prevention. Follow up in a caring way with your loved one on how they are feeling and help them follow through with their efforts to get help.
If you or someone you know is struggling, please know resources are available to help.
Call or Text 9-8-8. The 988 Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones.
Seek professional help
Our team at TherapyWorks is here to help make sense of what’s going on, create meaningful change, and get real results when it matters most—because when you feel better, you live better.
Know that you are not alone and help is available to you.
Maaliea Wilbur, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, is Founder and CEO of TherapyWorks. For more information, visit mytherapyworks.com.