National Suicide Prevention Month 2023

By Ashley Barnes

What is National Suicide Prevention Month?

National Suicide Prevention Month spans the entirety of September with the goal of uniting mental health professionals, prevention organizations, survivors, allies, and community members to promote suicide prevention awareness; this is achieved through educating others with the use of resources, research, and powerful stories. September also hosts National Suicide Prevention Week from September 4th through September 10th as well as World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10th.

Suicide Prevention.

It is important to recognize warning signs of suicide as well as understand it’s prevalence in order to work towards suicide prevention. Suicide describes the act of ending one’s own life. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States (CDC, 2021). Research has found that around 46% of people who die by suicide have a known mental health condition such as but not limited to depression or bipolar disorder (NAMI, 2019).

In addition to having a mental health condition, the following are other known risk factors for suicide: family history of suicide, substance abuse, intoxication, access to firearms, a serious or chronic medical illness, prolonged stress, a history or trauma or abuse, a recent tragedy or loss, and gender (NAMI, 2019). Elaborating on the last point, though more women attempt suicide than men, men are nearly four times as likely to die by suicide (NAMI, 2019). The APA extends the risk factors to changes in personality and behavior, changes in sleep and/or eating patterns, talking about dying, low self-esteem, giving away possessions, isolation, and no hope in the future (APA, 2019). 

The 988 Resource.

Spreading resources such as the 988 Lifeline can increase knowledge and access to those who need it most. The 988 Lifeline is a suicide and crisis lifeline that launched on July 16, 2022. Before this, 988 was formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255; while either phone number will lead callers to the same place, condensing the original number to three digits reflects the effort to make the crisis service more accessible.

The 988 Lifeline is not just for those experiencing suicidal thoughts. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 988 “​​offers 24/7 call, text and chat access to trained crisis counselors who can help people experiencing suicidal, substance use, and/or mental health crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress. People can also dial 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support” (2022). 

What to expect when you reach out to 988.

When people call 988, they will hear a greeting message while their call is routed to a local crisis center based on the caller’s area code. Then, a trained crisis counselor will answer the phone and listen to the caller’s concerns; counselors will provide empathetic listening and support and may share resources if needed. In cases where a local crisis center isn’t able to take a call, it is rerouted to a crisis center somewhere else in the United States. The Lifeline provides phone services in English and Spanish, also using Language Line Solutions to translate into 250 additional languages (SAMHSA, 2022). 

When people text 988, a crisis counselor will read texts, listen to people’s concerns, and will provide empathetic responses, often sharing helpful resources as well. Individuals who speak Spanish can now connect directly to Spanish-speaking crisis counselors by calling 988 and pressing option 2, texting “AYUDA” to 988, or chatting online at or 988

When people chat the 988 number through the Lifeline website, they are linked to a pre-chat survey before connecting with a crisis counselor. If there is a wait to chat with a crisis counselor, a wait-time message will appear. 

988 vs. 911

The 988 Lifeline provides easier access to crisis resources, which are “distinct from the public safety purposes of 911 (where the focus is on dispatching Emergency Medical Services, fire and police as needed)” (SAMHSA, 2022).

If you reach out to the 988 Lifeline, first responders (like the police or EMS) will not be automatically dispatched; similarly, you will not be automatically hospitalized. The primary goal of the 988 Lifeline is to provide person-centered support for those experiencing a mental health-related crisis. Fewer than 2% of Lifeline calls require connection to emergency services like 911 (SAMSHA, 2022). The 988 coordinated response is “intended to promote stabilization and care in the least restrictive manner,”  though some safety and health issues may warrant additional support (such as a suicide attempt in progress) (SAMHSA, 2022). 

The 988 Lifeline is in existence to offer support, hope, and to promote safety.

How to help.

It is important to change the discourse on suicide in order to combat harmful stigma that still surrounds it. This harmful stigma is demonstrated with the use of the word “commit.” The word “commit” has a negative connotation that is associated with a heinous act such as a crime. Though suicide completions are devastating and tragic, it is important to consider that those who attempt or complete suicide often struggle with mental illness and their judgement may be impaired due to this. “Survivors” are those who have lived through a suicide attempt; the term is meant to honor and empower these individuals after they’ve experienced what was likely a profoundly painful and scary experience. Changing our language surrounding the topic can help break down the harmful stigma surrounding suicide and mental illness while also empowering survivors who have lived through attempts.

If you recognize anyone showing warning signs, check in on them to show your care and support. If someone confides in you that they are suicidal, remain calm and ask direct questions to assess risk, such as “how serious are you about acting on your suicidal thoughts?” Regardless of the risk, it is also recommended to connect those experiencing suicidal thoughts to mental health care professionals who can accurately assess risk and provide clinical help.

Mental health professionals such as psychiatrists and therapists can evaluate a person’s risk for suicide by assessing a person’s means to suicide, if they have a plan, and their intent on acting on the plan. Mental health professionals can help individuals at risk of suicide develop a robust safety plan that aids in suicide prevention. In some high risk cases, mental health professionals may help connect those considering suicide with more intensive care. 

About the Mental Health Center

Ellie Mizani MD and Mark Hrymoc MD are the husband-and-wife team that founded MHC in 2011. They sought to create a psychiatric practice that was kind, compassionate, efficient, intelligent, and focused on delivering the best mental health treatment in Los Angeles, the kind they would send their own family and loved ones to. Because Dr. Mizani is a child psychiatrist and Dr. Hrymoc is an addiction psychiatrist, both specialties that involve helping not only patients but their families, they often collaborated with other therapists, physicians, and treatment programs. 

They knew accessibility, communication and collaboration helped them treat their patients more effectively, and should be the rule, not the exception in mental health treatment. That is why these core values are practiced throughout MHC, from our administrative staff to our clinicians. They have also witnessed an unfortunate and undeserved stigma that people struggling with mental health issues or receiving treatment for it often encounter, hence why all our patients are treated with utmost respect and professionalism while receiving care at MHC.

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American Psychological Association. (2019). Suicide warning signs. American Psychological Association. Retrieved January 6, 2022, from 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Facts about suicide. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved January 6, 2022, from 

National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2019). Risk of suicide. NAMI. Retrieved January 6, 2022, from 

SAMHSA. (2022). 988 frequently asked questions. Retrieved August 11, 2022, from