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September Is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

*Trigger warning

This article contains subject matter that may cause some readers distress. 


Unfortunately, statistically speaking, you or someone you know has had their lives effected by suicide. It is a topic that has been gaining more and more exposure in recent years, and we want to be able to give you some facts, clear up some misconceptions, and give guidance/resources as to what to do when you, or someone you know has thoughts of taking their own life. 

First, the definitions

Suicide – The act of intentionally causing one’s own death 

Suicidal Ideation - Thoughts about suicide. Can be defined under two categories 

  • Passive – Thoughts of wanting life to end, but no plans or intent 
  • Active – Thoughts of wanting life to end, with plan and/or intent to do so 

The grim statistics: 

  • Suicide 10th leading cause of death in the United States 
    • California ranks 45th out of the United States for suicides per year (10.5 per 100,000 people). 
  • On average in the United States, 123 suicides occur a day 
  • The average age adjusted suicide rate in the United States is 13.42 suicides per 100, 000 people 
  • Suicide is currently on a 30 year high in the United States, with a 24% rise in the number of lives lost between 1999 and 2014 (approximately 2% increase per year) 
  • Men die by suicide 3.5 times more often than women (however women attempt suicide with more frequency). 
  • Suicide is the 7th leading cause of death for males, 14th leading cause of death amongst females in the United States. 
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 15 – 34 and third leading cause of death for youth ages 10 – 14. 
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students in the United States. 
  • Attempted suicide rates for LGTBQ individuals are three times higher than the national average. 
  • A firearm is used in nearly 50% of all suicides in the United States. 

Given these statistics, one would be excused for assuming that we have got suicide “figured out,” or that we know what causes it. Not only do we not know what specifically causes someone to want to take their own life, there is also a great deal of myths/misinformation and stigmas surrounding suicide.

Below are some common myths, as well clarification on common suicide taking points. 

  • · There is no one warning sign for suicide. 
    • There are several factors to keep an eye on when surveying for suicide, including mental health issues, socioeconomic factors, supports, access to means, history of suicide attempts or suicidal ideation, self-esteem, etc.
    • Interpersonal Theory of Suicide out of Florida State University suggests that suicide is a result of a combination of three factors: 
      • Perceived Burdensomeness 
        • The idea that I am a burden and I would be doing those around me a favor by ending my life and not being a burden anymore.
      • Perceived Isolation 
        • The idea that I am alone and no one understands 
          • This does not mean that they are actually alone, but that they feel as if they are. 
      • Loss of Self-Preservation Instinct 
        • All people have an instinct to keep themselves safe from harm, however this instinct can be unlearned through repeated exposure to potentially life threatening circumstances, including self-injury, abuse/domestic violence, substance abuse, eating disorders, risk taking/daredevil behavior, etc. 
  • Self-Injury and Suicide are NOT the same, but they are correlated. 
    • Self-Injury is an attempt to cope with emotional distress through physical harm, suicide is an attempt end life 
    • While one can lead to the other, the difference is INTENT 
  • Youth and young adults are naturally resilient and bounce back from trauma. 
    • Resiliency is NOT natural. It is trait that is typically learned based on several factors, the two most important of which are Positive/Consistent Supports and Coping Skills 
  • Talking about suicide will make someone want to do it. 
    • The truth is you cannot make someone want to commit suicide by talking about. Interestingly, the inverse tends to be true. The more we are able to have honest, non-judgmental conversations about suicide, the more likely someone will be willing to share when they are in crisis. 
  • Suicide attempts are a “cry help” or “done for attention.” Also, people who talk about suicide aren’t likely to do it. 
    • YES they are!!!! With that being said, expressions like “cry for help” and “done for attention” are often used to dismiss suicidal ideation/behavior, as if it is not serious. In reality, if suicidal behavior is happening in any form, then it needs to be taken seriously EVERY TIME, and we should be giving the person the help and attention they are looking for. 


Now comes the part where you can make a difference in someone’s life.

Here are some things you can do to help someone who is experiencing suicidal ideation: 

  1. Take ALL suicidal thoughts and actions seriously, every time. 
  2. If a person is in immediate danger of taking their own life/or has already harmed themselves, call 911 immediately. 
  3. Utilize the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (800) 273-8255 for support, resources 
    1. Service is confidential and open 24 hours 
    2. For both those having suicidal thoughts and those who love/support them 
  4. If someone expresses suicidal thoughts to you, do not leave them alone (as long as it safe to do so). 
  5. If asked to keep information about suicide private, please do not. Share it with the minimum amount of supports necessary to ensure their safety.  
    1.  Please let the person know that you will be sharing the information and who you will be sharing it with in order to ensure their safety, while maintaining trust. 
  6. Do not allow any personal feelings or judgements present themselves while talking to someone who experiencing suicidal thoughts. Create a safe, non-critical environment for someone to want to confide in you.
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