#BeThere for Suicide Prevention

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Can you #BeThere to support suicide prevention? Did you know that September marks Suicide Prevention Month (#SPM20), with Suicide Prevention Week September 6-12 and World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10?

September is a key time to recognize the issue of suicide, reflect on what we can do, and relay a message of help and hope!

The most recent National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief on suicide shows that the U.S. suicide rate increased 33% from 10.5 to 14.0 per 100,000 from 1999-2017. Suicide rates increased for men and women in nearly all age groups, showing the importance of implementing population-level prevention strategies across the lifespan.

Additional CDC data show elevated and increasing suicide risk for minority populations, indicating the importance of targeted prevention efforts for underserved groups. The urgency of this issue is even clearer when we pair these data with what we are learning about the pandemic’s impact on mental health.

Despite these realities, we know there are prevention strategies with proven effectiveness in reducing suicides. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center outlines nine strategies that can be combined to create a comprehensive approach to prevention as part of its Effective Suicide Prevention Model.

A Garraza and colleagues study (2019) showed that U.S. counties with publicly funded comprehensive suicide prevention programs have seen lower suicide rates than comparison counties without suicide prevention programming.

The strategies that make up a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention involve a variety of interventions, such as identifying individuals at risk and promoting social connectedness. These strategies involve all community sectors and provide a role for us each to play in suicide prevention. I encourage you to read the CDC’s overview of what we all can do to prevent suicide and to choose a prevention strategy you can support.

Relay a message of help and hope: I also encourage you to promote a message of help and hope. The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention is the nation’s public-private partnership for suicide prevention housed at Education Development Center. For #SPM20, the Action Alliance is promoting messaging that encourages everyone to #BeThere, including three campaigns that provide steps to help someone in crisis:

  • #BeThe1To from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
  • #BeThere from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs
  • #take5tosavelives from the National Council for Suicide Prevention.

These campaigns provide hashtags, messages, and digital materials you can use to promote suicide prevention. At the core of these campaigns are actionable steps anyone can take to prevent suicide:

  • Check in with a friend by text, phone, or video chat.
  • Learn the risk factors and warning signs of suicide.
  • Connect someone who is struggling to professional care. If in crisis, call 800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741.

I invite all health educators to #BeThere to promote a message of help and hope and implement a comprehensive, public health approach to suicide prevention in your communities. We all have a role to play.

Shawna Hite-Jones, MPH, CHES
Senior Prevention Specialist, Suicide Prevention Resource Center
Education Development Center
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