National Suicide Prevention Month

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). 

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.

Spreading resources such as the 988 Lifeline can increase knowledge and access to those who need it most 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. 



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