Suicide is an important topic that people are often hesitant to discuss. But the more we talk about it, the more we can break the stigmas, and the more lives we can save. Misinformation surrounding mental health can cause us to downplay the severity of symptoms in friends and loved ones experiencing depression, and perpetuate the myth that seeking help is a sign of weakness. This defies logic when seeking help is among the bravest things a person can do when they are struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide.
While suicides are preventable, they are all too common in our society. According to the 2020 data from the World Health Organization:
Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the U.S. and the 15th in IllinoisIn 2020, approximately 46,000 people died by suicide1 death occurs every 40 seconds and 130 people die by suicide per dayMen are 3.88 times more likely to die by suicide than women.
Even so, many communities lack adequate mental health resources, especially low-income communities and communities of color. A 2021 study from the CDC showed that while there was an overall decrease in suicides in the U.S. between 2019 and 2020, there were spikes among Black, Latino, and Indigenous populations.
National Suicide Prevention Awarenss Month was established in 2008, and held in September to coincide with World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10. Every year since, people around the country gather to remember those lost to suicide, celebrate those who have survived suicidal thoughts or attempts, educate communities about suicide prevention, and show compassion.
When thinking about suicide prevention, it’s important to remember that mental illness can affect anyone—it does not discriminate based on gender, race, religion, class, age, or any other factor.
People who are contemplating suicide often exhibit warning signs, some of which might include:
Changes in behavior or moodMaking verbal statements, such as “I want to kill myself”Withdrawal from previously enjoyable hobbies and activitiesIncreased risky behaviorIncreased feelings of guilt and hopelessness
If you or someone you know is battling depression or suicidal ideation, talk about it! And if someone opens up to you about their struggles, give them your full attention and listen without judgment. Help them access resources and mental health services, and always show empathy and compassion.
“A seed neither fears light nor darkness, but uses both to grow.”
― Matshona Dhliwayo