September is National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month and it’s important to not shy away from conversations about one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. In 2021, almost 50,000 deaths in the United States were due to suicide. Attempts and thoughts about suicide have even higher numbers; 12.3 million American adults thought seriously about suicide, 3.5 million planned an attempt, and 1.7 million have made an attempt to take their lives according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Suicide can be preventable, and everyone can share in the responsibility to help save lives and foster strong and healthy communities.
Talk About It
While it’s admittedly a difficult subject to discuss, it’s important to talk to those who you are worried about. You may think that you might be making a situation worse or that you’re possibly putting the idea in someone’s mind. However, having an open conversation may be what that person needs if you suspect they are depressed or having suicidal thoughts.
Lead with compassion and try asking these questions directly:
– Have you done something to plan the end of your life?
– Are you thinking about hurting yourself in any way?
– Are you thinking about killing yourself?
Doing this shows this person that you care about them and are willing to talk about it without judgement.
Warning Signs of Suicide
There are several factors that indicate someone is having thoughts of suicide or making plans for suicide. If the behavior is new, has increased, or seems related to a painful life event, the risk for suicide becomes even greater.
Talk to someone if they are:
– Making threatening statements about hurting or killing oneself
– Expressing feelings of despair, helplessness, hopelessness, or being trapped
– Seeking access to firearms, pills, or other potentially lethal means
– Talking, writing, or looking up about death, dying, or suicide on the internet
– Anxious, agitated, showing rage, and/or having dramatic mood swings
– Increasing drug or alcohol use
– Giving away possessions
– Sleeping all the time or unable to sleep
– Taking part in reckless activities, seemingly without thinking
– “Snapping out” of a period of down or depressed mood as this may also indicate that the person has decided to end their life
Get help immediately if you or someone you know is showing one or more of these signs.
Crisis and Suicide 988 Lifeline
If you or someone you know is struggling or in a mental health crisis that could lead to suicide, do not wait for help – call or text 988 for help. In addition, you can reach mental health professionals online by chatting 988Lifeline.org.
In 2020, Congress designated the number 988 as the dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Think of it as a 911 for mental health distress: Dialing or texting the number puts you in touch with a professional who can provide free and confidential support 24/7.
Most suicides are preventable – do not wait to seek help and do not wait to ask questions. You may just save a life.
by Jacquelyn Zielewicz, LCSW
Behavioral Health, UPMC
Jacquelyn Zielewicz, LCSW, is a behavioral therapist with UPMC Behavioral Health and sees patients at UPMC Williamsport Divine Providence Campus, 1100 Grampian Blvd., Williamsport. For more information, visit UPMC.com/BehavioralHealthNCPA.