You’ll likely see a number of notices about campaigns for suicide awareness in the upcoming weeks with September 10th being World Suicide Prevention Day and September as the National Suicide Prevention Month.
The World Health Organization estimates that over 800,000 people die by suicide each year, and up to 25 times as many attempt suicide. As such, many communities are currently organizing events—such as walks—to fight suicide and marketing materials to increase access to services.
This is a time to share resources, stories, and connect with others as we support those who are truly suffering in life. Several questions arose for me as I wondered about the most effective ways to engage in prevention efforts for suicide:
Are suicide prevention efforts truly effective?
The answer to this question is nuanced. Research suggests that suicide is affected by socio-cultural factors, making it both a public health and social justice issue.
What Do Agencies Need to Do in Order to Be Effective?
Suicide prevention models need to integrate public health policies. Such policies include:
- Increasing access to means, such as therapy and community organizations.
- Engage in preventative measures, such as helping young people develop skills to cope in schools.
- Have methods to follow-up with at-risk populations in both short and longer-term ways, such as the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which follows up with individuals who use the services.
What Can I Do to Assist in Suicide Prevention Efforts?
1. When you donate to suicide prevention programs or participate in activities, ensure that there are clear policies and procedures that integrate public health care. Individual events and actions have a lower probability of producing long-term change.
As such, suicide prevention programs must clearly spell out their objectives and targets. Programs need to integrate public health measures and individual care with appropriate follow-up and social support.
A number of organizations exist that are built on this foundation, such as:
2. Support programs that focus on psycho-education, such as:
- Advocate for mental health professionals to present at community programs in which you are involved, such as your place of worship, school, professional organization.
- Attend trainings to learn about how to be a gatekeeper for suicide prevention, like Question, Persuade, Refer.
3. Talk about suicide prevention in a caring, non-judgmental manner in order to reduce the shame and stigma that can be associated with talking about such a topic.
4. You can normalize and model learning by encouraging others to join you as you learn! The topic of suicide prevention may feel daunting and we often feel like we are not doing enough.
Here’s the thing, research supports that suicide prevention programs can absolutely be effective when they focus on multiple levels of intervention (individual, community, and national) including access to services, learning, media reporting, and legal issues.
If you or someone you care about has thoughts of suicide, support is available 24/7 through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or by text at 741-741.