Every year, the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) designates September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month (SPAM). Suicide is a taboo and often stigmatized topic, and the language we use to discuss it continuously evolves. We’re gone from saying “committed suicide” to saying things like “completed suicide” or “died by suicide” to help tackle the stigma attached to this delicate, but universally important, topic.

According to the CDC, here are some facts regarding suicide:


v  Suicide is a leading cause of death.

v  Suicide is a serious public health problem.

v  Suicide rates declined in 2019 and 2020.

v  Nearly 46,000 people died by suicide in 2020, which equates to roughly one death by suicide every 11 minutes.

v  Middle aged adults (35-64 years old) account for 47.2% of all suicides in the US, and suicide is the 9th leading cause of death for this age group.

v  Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for youth and young adults 10-24 years old.

v  Suicide rates vary by race/ethnicity, age, and where someone lives.

v  Veterans have an adjusted suicide rate that is 52.3% greater than the non-Veteran US adult population.

v  The industry groups with the highest suicide rates are mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction; construction; agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting; and transportation and warehousing.

v  Suicide rates are much higher in rural areas than in urban areas.

v  Suicide is preventable!

Groups at Highest Risk:

o   Adults over age 45, especially men

o   Indigenous Americans

o   Veterans

o   Members of the LGBTQIA+ community

o   Youth and young adults

o   Attempt survivors

o   Loss survivors

o   Disaster survivors

Knowing which groups are at higher risk can help you learn about the intersectional risk level for you or a loved one. Intersectional risk level refers to the ways in which one’s identities overlap or conjoin. For example, a man over the age of 45 who is a Veteran and member of the LGBTQIA+ community that recently lost his partner and survived a natural disaster in the last five years is at a significantly high risk for suicidal ideation and possible attempts.

Risk Factors:

Ø  Mental health disorders, especially mood disorders, such as: schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and certain personality disorders

Ø  Alcohol and other substance use disorders

Ø  Hopelessness

Ø  Impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies

Ø  History or trauma or abuse

Ø  Major physical illnesses

Ø  Previous suicide attempts

Ø  Family history of suicide

Ø  Job or financial loss

Ø  Loss of relationship(s)

Ø  Easy access to lethal means

Ø  Local clusters of suicide

Ø  Lack of social support

Ø  Sense of isolation

Ø  Stigma associated with asking for help

Ø  Lack of healthcare, especially mental health and substance abuse treatment

Ø  Cultural and religious beliefs, such as the belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma

Ø  Exposure to others who have died by suicide (either in real life or via the media or internet)

Being aware of the risk factors can help you recognize the warning signs early and provide a helpful intervention for your loved one. In addition to knowing your intersectional risk groups, knowing your intersectional risk factors is another tool to help evaluate someone’s risk level. Using the example above, that same man has a diagnosed mood disorder, regularly uses alcohol, feels hopeless about his future, has a history of childhood trauma and combat trauma, recently lost his job, has easy access to lethal means, and feels isolated without a strong social support network. He also believes that asking for help makes him “weak.” As you can see, his risk level continues to escalate.

Warning Signs:

§  Talking about wanting to die or un-alive themselves

§  Looking for a way to unalive themselves, like searching online or buying a gun

§  Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live

§  Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain

§  Talking about being a burden to others

§  Increased use or alcohol or drugs

§  Acting anxious or agitated

§  Behaving recklessly

§  Sleeping too little or too much

§  Withdrawing or isolating themselves

§  Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge

§  Extreme mood swings

Warning signs can be very serious on their own but can also be compounded by being a member of a high-risk group and having multiple risk factors while displaying warning signs.

Several different types of resources exist to help those struggling with suicidal ideation get the help they need. There are text lines, internet-based chat services, and phone-based hotlines that can be accessed anywhere at any time. After many years of trying, NAMI was successful this year in creating a universal crisis line to help those struggling with suicidal ideation. Ways to contact crisis resources can be found below.


®    988, available by call or text

®    988lifeline.org, a chat service for those who prefer chatting to call or text

®    Text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line


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