Suicide Prevention and Awareness

As a new month dawns, it may be easy to check September off the list and to move on from its deep significance. As you may know, September was Suicide Prevention and Awareness month, but suicide awareness isn’t just limited to one month. As present and future counseling psychologists, we can advocate for increased awareness throughout the year. Toward this end, the American Psychological Association promotes attentiveness to suicide risk by raising awareness of suicide, highlighting warning signs and risks, emphasizing protective factors, and supporting improvements in treatment and services for individuals who experience suicidal thoughts.

History of Suicide Prevention

Formal efforts for suicide prevention started with the opening of the Didi Hirsch’s Suicide Prevention Center in Southern California in 1958. The prevention center was funded from a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. The center became a model for suicide prevention centers across the United States and is considered one of its kind. Didi Hirsch provides a comprehensive amount of services for both clinicians and the general population. This institute also trains mental health professionals on the leading and empirically-based research on suicide prevention.

In 1970, NIMH created a suicide prevention task force in Phoenix, Arizona, to discuss suicide and suicide prevention efforts. Almost 50 years later, and the U.S. government created the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention plan, which is a long-term plan designed to address the rising number of suicides in the country.

About Suicide

Suicide is defined as death by self-injurious behavior with an intent to die. According to the CDC, in 2017 suicide was the tenth leading cause of death among all age groups. Specifically, suicide is one of the main leading causes of death among adolescents and young adults. Here are more facts you may not know:

  • Suicide is a significant concern and a leading cause of death in the United States.
  • Suicide among some populations is on the rise based on recent national surveys.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death between individuals who are 10-34 years old right behind unintentional injury.
  • Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in people ages 35-44.
  • In the 16 years from 2001 to 2017, the total suicide rate increased by 31%.
  • The suicide rate among males is four times higher than the rate among females.
  • In suicide deaths, firearms are the most common method used accounting for almost half of all suicides.
  • According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health by SAMHSA, 9.8 million adults in the United States had serious thoughts of suicide. Out of these, 2.8 million adults made suicide plans, and 1.3 adults attempted suicide.

Ways Counseling Psychologists Can Help Year-Round

As present and future counseling psychologists, we may have been involved in suicide prevention efforts and advocacy over the month of September. Now, as we enter October, we can extend those efforts. We are encouraged to cultivate a habit of participating in and raising awareness of suicide and suicidal thoughts. Here are some ways we can focus on greater advocacy in the coming year:

  • Become involved in APA’s prevention efforts of suicide which includes gun violence prevention.
  • Participate in advocacy efforts regarding suicide awareness and gun violence prevention.
  • Seek out training about suicide: warning signs, suicidal thoughts, and suicide prevention. Helping suicide survivors also need to be a top priority in our professional development as psychologists.
  • Conduct research on suicide, especially among diverse and ethnic/minority communities. Consider exploring cultural factors in suicidal behavior which can better help prevention efforts for minorities.
  • Keep up with the latest research and advancements on suicide and suicide prevention. Learn about resources to assess and address risk as well as screening tools such as the SAMSHA Suicide Safe mobile-learning tool and app.
  • Participate in community and national efforts to increase suicide awareness. Take pledges to take action such as Take 5 to Save Lives.

Still wondering what is available? Here are some more resources to explore:

General Resources

Amanda Sivoney Rodriguez, B.A. (she/her) is a graduate student in the counseling psychology program at Texas A&M International University. Amanda serves as a member of the student advisory committee for Division 17’s Section for the Advancement of Women.

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