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Across the globe, more people than ever before are struggling with their mental health. Suicide is currently one of the leading causes of death in the United States with more than 48,000 people dying by suicide last year alone.Just as concerning, the CDC estimates that more than 12 million adults seriously considered suicide last year.
As the mental health crisis continues to worsen, experts fear that those numbers will only grow, and emphasize education and destigmatization when it comes to combating mental health and suicide prevention.
September is Suicide Awareness Month and also the perfect time to improve your understanding of the mental health crisis, how to recognize the signs of suicide, and what resources are available. 94 percent of respondents surveyed by the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention think suicidal people can be helped, illustrating the public’s understanding of the issue and desire to help, but lack of skills to do so. Normalizing people’s mental health struggles and learning how to get them effective help without judgement is the key to improving the number of individuals who both consider and complete suicide.
What is Happening?
According to a 2022 report from the CDC, almost 20 percent of Americans have at least one diagnosable mental illness. The same report found that 60 percent of teenagers identify as depressed, and experts say they expect both numbers to continue increasing.
People living with mental illnesses are at a higher risk than the general population of suicidal ideation, which is often the first sign of suicide and a sure sign that someone is struggling with their mental health. Suicidal ideation is an inappropriate interest, or intrusive thoughts about dying and death that are generally caused by a person’s inability to deal with their mental illness or life’s stress in a health way.
Suicidal ideation may occur, and no suicide attempts will follow, but ideation is still cause for concern. People experiencing suicidal ideation should still seek treatment to help them reframe their thoughts in a healthier way, in turn lowering their risk of acting on their intrusive thoughts.
What Are the Signs?
Everybody exhibits signs of suicidal contemplation and depression differently, and some people may experience no outward symptoms at all. Most suicidal people, however, show at least some signs that they are thinking about ending their lives. These signs can range from physical behaviors to cognitive symptoms. If you see any of the following signs in a friend or family member, you should speak up! If you experience these feelings personally, you should reach out for judgement-free help at the resources at the bottom of this blog.
While there are few things harder than admitting that you need help, or confronting a loved one about their suicidal thoughts, starting the conversation is the most important thing. Always take suicidal ideation seriously. Never tell the subject to act on their thoughts to call their bluff, or ask them if they are thinking about suicide in a way that implies you want the answer to be “no.”
The best thing you can do is listen, express concern, reassure, and create a safety plan to make sure the subject is safe like removing access to lethal means like firearms and alcohol. Luckily, there are a plethora of tools that are both robust, and some free of charge, which can help people struggling with suicidal ideation, suicidal thoughts, or people trying to help a loved one.