Toward the end of each year, we start to map out organizations and causes to promote through our “Doing Good” series for the coming year. We thought Suicide Prevention Month in September would be an “easy” topic since we have hard-working clients like Community Health Network doing so much to reduce the incidence and stigma of suicide; however, writing this post has been anything but easy. While I was familiar with the alarming statistics around suicide through research for grant applications, suicide took on a new meaning in July when I lost a dear friend of almost 30 years to it. I unexpectedly found myself living out loud an issue that previously seemed like something that only happens to other people.
Here are the hard facts about suicide. Between 1999 and 2014, the national suicide rate increased by 24 percent. Suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death in the United States, with an average of 117 people taking their own lives every day. And for every actual suicide, there are 25 attempted suicides. Men die by suicide three-and-a-half times more often than women, and white males accounted for 7 of 10 suicides in 2014. My own friend was a 40-year-old male, part of an often overlooked high-risk population of middle-aged men between 35 and 64.
In addition, youth suicide rates indicate a critical need for prevention among individuals aged 10 to 24 – for which suicide is the second-leading cause of death. More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, combined. Youth plans and suicide attempts are highest among females, with 22.5 percent of 9th-grade females making a suicide plan and 15 percent following through on an attempt in 2015. (Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2015).
Following the 2011 CDC Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which revealed that the percentage of Indiana students attempting suicide was the 2nd highest among 43 states surveyed, Community Health Network developed its Zero Suicides for Indiana Youth project. This has led to havehope.com, where teens can anonymously learn the signs, risk factors, and find support to help themselves or a friend. Four out of five teens who attempt suicide give clear warning signs, but only one in five teens seeks help for their depression or suicidal thoughts, making education and awareness vital to identifying and addressing suicide risk among teens.
What can you do today to actively prevent suicide?
- Know the risk factors and warning signs of suicide
- If you recognize you or someone you know is at risk, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-TALK) and be connected to a skilled, trained counselor
- Register to support your city’s Out of the Darkness Walk to Fight Suicide. Charlotte‘s walk will take place October 29, and nearly 350 other towns and cities will host walks throughout the country between now and February 2017.