2024-07-21 7:27 PM

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

By Michael Repie, Ph.D, Senior Director of Clinical Services

Suicide is one of the leading causes of preventable death in our nation today. Talking about suicide can be difficult. In order to help raise awareness, and open the dialogue, September is recognized as National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. There are an average of 123 suicides each day in our country, and suicide ranks as the second leading cause of death for those age 25-34, and the third leading cause for those age 15-24.


While there is no single cause for suicide, there are risk factors and warning signs which may increase the likelihood of an attempt. Learning them can save lives. Some studies suggest that 9 out of 10 individuals who die by suicide give very clear warning signals to those around them. Some include:


• Talking about suicide and/or having a preoccupation with death
• Looking for access to lethal means (guns, pills, knives, etc.)
• Mood swings or personality changes
•Hopelessness
• Self-loathing/hatred
• Neglecting to take care of one’s appearance
• Changes in eating and sleeping habits
• Saying goodbyes
• Withdrawal from friends, families, and usual activities


Risk factors are characteristics or conditions that increase the chance that a person may try to take their own life. Some include:


• Mental health conditions such as depression, substance use problems, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, serious health conditions including pain, and traumatic brain injury
• Environmental conditions including access to lethal means and drugs, prolonged stress such as bullying, relationship problems, or unemployment, and stressful life events such as rejection, divorce, financial crisis, or exposure to another person’s suicide.
• Historical factors such as previous suicide attempts, a family history of suicide, or childhood abuse, neglect, or trauma


One serious new tool to help prevent suicide is the recent rollout of 988. After years of advocacy and preparation, 988 is now available nationwide as the new number to contact for mental health, substance use, and suicide crisis, as a simple, easy to remember way for people to get help. This new number will allow people to quickly connect with support during a crisis, 24/7, no matter where they live.


What is the difference between 988 and 911? 911 had been utilized for all emergencies, including mental health emergencies. Mental health crisis calls to 911 may result in potentially dangerous and traumatizing outcomes when police are called. Despite best efforts, 911 dispatchers often have not received specific training on how to handle mental health and suicide related calls. 988 calls will be handled by National Suicide Prevention Lifeline counselors, highly trained to assist people in emotional distress or suicidal crisis. Please help spread the word!


What else can you do to support the cause? There are many other ways to get involved this month and beyond. Share information about suicide and suicide prevention on social media to help reduce the stigma. Introduce and keep dialogue going with family and friends about the need for increased awareness and support. Volunteer at a local crisis shelter or other organization. Never be reluctant to get involved and always take any reported desire or intent to harm oneself seriously. Remember suicide is preventable!


Dominion Hospital is a 116-bed free standing psychiatric hospital in Falls Church, with inpatient and outpatient services for Children, Adolescents, and Adults, and specialty programs for Complex Trauma Disorders, Eating Disorders, and Substance Use Disorders, in addition to Non-Suicidal Self-Injury and School Refusal. For more information, or to schedule a free, confidential assessment, call 703-538-2872.

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