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Suicide Prevention Month: Be the One to Help Save a Life

September is Suicide Prevention month. Sadly, suicide was the 12th leading cause of death in the US according to the CDC Data & Statistics Fatal Injury Report for 2020. There were an estimated 1.2 Million suicide attempts that year.

On July 16, 2022, the Illinois Department of Human Services/Division of Mental Health (IDHS-DMH) launched 988, a national three-digit dialing code for the Lifeline and for calls. Individuals experiencing a crisis or any other kind of emotional distress–whether that is related to suicide, mental health and/or substance use crisis can dial 988 for support. The Lifeline provides information and support to concerned family, friends, and caregivers.

988 is a direct access point to compassionate care by trained professionals. IDHS-DMH’s vision for 988 includes partnering with the six existing Lifeline call centers in Illinois, as well as building upon the existing crisis care continuum into a robust system that links callers to community-based providers who can deliver a full range of crisis care services.

YOU can be the one to help connect someone to the help they need if they are having thoughts of suicide. Through simple actions, you can make a BIG difference.

ASK: "Are you thinking about killing yourself?"

Don't be afraid to ask the tough questions. When someone you know is in emotional pain, ask them directly if they are thinking about killing them self. Research shows people who are having thoughts of suicide feel relief when someone asks after them in a caring way. Acknowledging and talking about suicide may reduce rather than increase suicidal ideation

BE THERE: Listen without judgment and with compassion and empathy.

If your friend is thinking about suicide, listen to their reasons for feeling hopeless and in pain. Individuals are more likely to feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful by after speaking to someone who listens without judgment.

KEEP THEM SAFE: Separate them from anything they are thinking of using to hurt themselves.

If your friend is thinking about suicide, ask if they've also thought about how they would do it. Then isolate them from any lethal means. When lethal means are made less available or less deadly, suicide rates by that method decline, and frequently suicide rates overall decline.

HELP THEM STAY CONNECTED: Connect to a support system.

Help your friend connect to a support system so they have others to reach out to for help. Helping someone at risk create a network of resources and individuals for support and safety can help them take positive action and reduce feelings of hopelessness.

FOLLOW UP: Check in with the person you care about on a regular basis.

Making contact with a friend in the days and weeks after a crisis can make a difference in keeping them alive. Brief, low cost intervention and supportive, ongoing contact may be an important part of suicide prevention, especially for individuals after they have been discharged from hospitals or care services.

Warning Signs

Some warning signs may help you determine if a loved one is at risk for suicide, especially if the behavior is new, has increased, or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change. If you or someone you know exhibits any of these, seek help by calling the Lifeline at 988.

• Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves.

• Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online or buying a gun.

• Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.

• Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.

• Talking about being a burden to others.

• Increasing their use of alcohol or drugs.

• Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.

• Sleeping too little or too much.

• Withdrawing or isolating themselves.

• Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.

• Displaying extreme mood swings.

Suicidal thoughts can seem like they will last forever – but for many, these thoughts and feelings pass. Having a plan in place that can help guide you through difficult moments can make a difference and keep you safe. Ideally, such a plan is developed jointly with your counselor or therapist. It can also be developed with a Lifeline counselor who can help you write down actions to take and people to contact in order to feel safe from suicide.

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