September is national suicide prevention month. According to the United States Government, Division of Human Services (DHS 2021), suicide is ranked 10th as the leading cause of death for all ages of Americans. During the month of September, we have a good opportunity to talk openly about suicide. We can decrease stigma, educate people about signs, symptoms, and ramifications. We can also help people who are struggling with suicidal ideation feel less alone.
According to DHS the following are warning signs that someone is at risk for suicide:
- Extreme feelings of depression, guilt, or shame.
- Frequently talking about suicide or preoccupation with death/suicide.
- Preparing for death –such as preparing or updating a will, giving away possessions, creating a plan (researching ways to die), or taking steps to access lethal means (purchasing a gun, acquiring medication).
- Exhibiting behavior changes – such as withdrawal from friends or family, decreased participation in interests or hobbies, increased alcohol/drug use, changes in sleeping or eating habits, decreased or poor self-care.
DHS makes the following suggestions about what we can do if we suspect someone is experiencing a suicide crisis.
DHS talks about the ACE acronym suicide model if someone needs help. ACE stands for Ask, Care, and Escort. This suicide prevention model is designed to be easy to remember:
Ask – Ask the person, “Are you thinking of killing yourself?” Although it may seem awkward to ask this intrusive question, research shows that people having thoughts of suicide feel relief when someone asks them with concern about their status.
Care – Let the person know you care. Be attentive and actively listen. Talk with the person without judgment. When you do this, you show that you care. This might be enough to help the person feel relief and that they are not alone.
Escort – When someone says that they are feeling suicidal or hopeless, care enough to connect them to the nearest helping resource. Take them to the closest ER, call 911, call 1-800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline which is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and follow their guidance or contact a local mental health professional and make a crisis appointment. Do not leave the person alone or without resources. If possible, separate them from any methods of harm.
For more information on suicide prevention please see the original DHS article.