In 2020, nearly 46,000 people in the U.S. died by suicide — an average of one person every 11 minutes — according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10–34 and the 12th leading cause of death overall in the U.S. And for every suicide death, the CDC says, 275 people seriously entertained thoughts of suicide.
Thoughts and actions are two different things, and suicidal thoughts do not have to become reality. As a Mental Health First Aider, you can use your valuable knowledge of how to recognize and respond to the signs and symptoms of suicidal thinking to help someone in need get the timely care they deserve.
At the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, our goal is to make mental wellbeing, including recovery from substance use challenges, a reality for everyone. That’s why we’re observing National Suicide Prevention Month this September, an annual observance aimed at raising awareness, spreading hope and sharing vital resources among people affected by suicide. Reach out to the following resources to help yourself or someone in your life.
Hotlines and messaging services
- 911: In an emergency, or if someone appears to be at risk of self-harm and says that they intend to die, call 911. Do not leave the person alone.
- 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: Call or text 988 for 24/7 access to trained crisis counselors who can help people experiencing mental health-related distress, including:
- Thoughts of suicide.
- Mental health or substance use crisis.
- Any other kind of emotional distress.
- Veterans Crisis Line: Veterans and their loved ones can text 838-255 OR dial 988 then press 1 for to get 24/7 confidential crisis support. Responders are real people, many of them veterans, who are specially trained to support veterans. You don’t have to be enrolled in VA benefits or health care to use the Veterans Crisis Line.
- The Trevor Project: Text “Start” to 678-678, call 866-488-7386 or chat at org. Trained counselors are available 24/7 to support people under 25 who are in crisis, feeling suicidal or in need of a safe and judgment-free place to talk. The Trevor Project specializes in supporting the LGBTQ+ community.
- SAMHSA’s National Helpline: Call 800-662-4357 (HELP) or text your zip code to 435-748 (HELP4U) for free, confidential treatment referral and information for individuals and families in need. The helpline is available 24/7, 365-days-a-year and has English and Spanish language options.
- SAMHSA’S Disaster Distress Helpline: Call 800-985-5990 for a 24/7, 365-days-a-year national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster.
- The Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and houses a database of resources, including fact sheets, presentations and self-help worksheets like the Stanley-Brown Safety Plan.
- TrevorSpace, by The Trevor Project, provides an affirming online community for LGBTQ+ youth, including those who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts.
- The Jason Foundation is dedicated to preventing youth suicide through educational and awareness programs. The website offers information for students, parents and educators/youth workers.
- The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has a guide for talking to a child about a suicide attempt in their family. The guide provides specific recommendations for holding these discussions with preschoolers, school-age children and teenagers.
- Man Therapy is dedicated to changing the fact that working-aged men (25-54 years old) account for the largest number of suicide deaths in the U.S. It provides resources for men who may be suicidal, including a free “20 Point Head Inspection” to help determine which areas of their mental health may need some extra attention.
- Start Your Recovery is tailored to individuals living with substance use disorders and offers information and resources regarding suicide prevention.
How you can help
- The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline created #BeThe1To to spread the word about actions we can all take to prevent suicide. The site provides downloadable graphics kits to help inform social media posts and includes suggestions on how to spread awareness and change the conversation about suicide in your community.
- The 988 Suicide & Crisis lifeline has resources available to help spread awareness for National Suicide Prevention Month, like this downloadable ribbon you can use as a profile picture to show your support for suicide prevention on social media.
- Encourage your friends and community members to get trained in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) to help ensure that everyone has a friend they can turn to when experiencing a mental health or substance use challenge. MHFA teaches you how to recognize and respond to the signs and symptoms of mental health and substance use challenges and crises, including suicide, before it’s too late.
Suicide is preventable, and together, we can make mental wellbeing a reality for everyone. Thank you for choosing to #BeTheDifference.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, June 28). Suicide Data and Statistics. https://www.cdc.gov/suicide/suicide-data-statistics.html.
National Alliance on Mental Illness. (n.d.). Suicide Prevention Awareness Month (SPAM). https://www.nami.org/Get-Involved/Awareness-Events/Suicide-Prevention-Awareness-Month-(SPAM).