Approximately one in five adults suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder, according to Suicide Awareness Voices of Education. With those disorders comes the increased risk of suicide.
In an effort to raise awareness and prevent additional deaths, September has been designated National Suicide Prevention Month. It’s an issue that’s more important than ever given the negative impact from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic on people’s mental health.
With COVID-19 comes self-isolation and social distancing, which can lead to loneliness and depression. Depression is one of the leading causes of suicide attempts, according to the Jason Foundation, a nonprofit whose mission is to raise awareness of youth suicides. Knowing the warning signs can help. Those include sudden changes in personality, feelings of hopelessness, lack of interest in activities, increased irritability and sleeping too little or too much.
As shocking as it might be, someone in the U.S. dies by suicide every 12 minutes with nearly 45,000 Americans dying each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among Americans 15 to 24 years old.
In his press briefing last week, Gov. Ralph Northam also brought attention to veteran suicides.
The Department of Veterans Affairs reports that 17 veterans die each day by suicide, Northam said. According to data from the Virginia Department of Health, 231 Virginia veterans died by suicide in 2017, which accounted for 21% of all suicides nationwide.
“Every suicide is a tragedy and a difficult loss for loved ones,” Northam said. “It’s not weakness to ask for help.”
One of the best ways to help a friend who might be struggling with suicidal thoughts is to know the warning signs of suicide and the symptoms of depression.
SAVE suggests opening a dialogue by asking nonconfrontational and nonjudgemental questions such as “do you ever feel so bad that you think about suicide?” Or “have you thought about when you would do it” or “have you thought about what method you would use?” Having answers to these questions can help determine if a person is in immediate danger and can allow someone to get help, according to SAVE.
This type of conversation about how someone is feeling might be hard, but ignoring or minimizing a person’s feelings could have fatal consequences. Instead, acknowledging that the pain is legitimate and offering to get a person help are two ways you can save a life.
Fortunately, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is there to help those in crisis. The hotline, 1-800-273-8255, is operated by a national network of crisis centers to provide free, confidential support.
The Federal Communications Commission adopted rules in July to establish a new, nationwide three-digit number, 988, that will connect those in crisis with suicide prevention and mental health counselors. All phone service providers are required to direct 988 calls to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by mid-July 2022.