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Suicide Prevention: When and How to Help

September 9th, 2021


Suicide & What the Data Tells Us

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 120-130 adults die by suicide; that is approximately one every 11-12 minutes. In the United States, it is the 10th leading cause of death. Worldwide, suicide is the 17th leading cause of death.

Suicide rates vary among different groups, for example, among adolescents and young adults (ages 10-34), suicide is the second leading cause of death, with specific ethnic and racial groups also being impacted at higher rates.

All of this data may seem frightening and overwhelming, but there is hope, because suicide, by and large, can be prevented.

What Is Suicide Prevention?

Simply stated, suicide prevention involves a variety of individual, family, community, and societal programs, policies, and practices that decrease the risk for suicide.

These practices primarily work by decreasing risk factors, which increase suicide risk, while increasing protective factors, which decrease suicide risk.

What Is Suicide Prevention?

Suicide Risk Factors Include:

  • Mental Health Conditions, particularly - Bipolar Disorders, Borderline Personality Disorder, Eating Disorders (particularly Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa), Major Depressive Disorder, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Schizophrenia, and Substance Use Disorders
  • Social Isolation
  • Recent loss
  • Stigma associated with mental illness or seeking treatment
  • History of suicide attempts or family suicide
  • Bullying or child abuse/neglect
  • Suicide clusters in the community
  • Chronic physical illness
  • Prior suicide attempt or family history of suicide attempts

Protective Factors include:

Skills for managing difficult or uncomfortable emotions

  • Strategies and tools for solving problems
  • Access to health care
  • Community support from loved ones, peers, and other community figures
  • Sense of purpose
  • Cultural/religious beliefs that discourage suicide
  • Prevention of access to lethal means of suicide

Examples of effective suicide prevention include policies that enhance financial and housing security, which result in decreased housing loss and emotional and financial stress.

Alternatively, emphasis on mental health coverage through both insurance coverage and provision of care in underserved areas bolsters protective factors by providing access to health care, teaching skills for coping and problem-solving, and increasing community support.

Similar strategies which increase protective factors include placing barriers on tall structures, installation of signs and telephones at subway stations, and safe storage practices for weapons and medications to limit access to means of suicide.

There are also several ways in which each of us can work towards the goal of suicide prevention. Some of these ways are to learn the warning signs for suicide, encourage help-seeking, and know what to do if someone is suicidal.

What Are The Warning Signs Of Suicide?

What Are The Warning Signs Of Suicide?

The following have been identified as suicide warning signs:

Talking about:

  • Talking about or threatening to commit or attempt suicide
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or without purpose
  • Talking about feeling trapped
  • Talking about feeling burdensome to others


  • Increased substance use
  • Isolation or withdrawal
  • Exploring methods for suicide
  • Significant changes in sleep pattern; sleeping too little or too much
  • Giving away possessions; visiting or saying goodbye to people
  • Aggression


  • Depressed
  • Anxious
  • Humiliated
  • Shame
  • Relief or sudden improvement in mood (may mean the person has decided to end their life)

How To Help Someone Who Is Suicidal

If you are having suicidal thoughts or observe any of the above signs in someone else, you can do the following:

  1. Talk to the person. Studies show that not only does talking about suicide with a person who is suicidal not increase the risk of suicide. Asking questions and being open to hearing the person’s feelings in a non-judgmental manner can encourage help-seeking.
  2. Don’t keep secrets. It is always preferable to lose a friendship due to disclosure of a secret than a loss of life.
  3. Remove access to potentially harmful items (I.e., guns, knives, stockpiled medications).
  4. Provide support and follow-up.
  5. Seek professional help. Reach out to a therapist, psychiatrist, or other trusted health resource.
  6. If someone’s life is in danger, get help immediately. Call 911, go to the nearest emergency room, or utilize the National Suicide Prevention Hotline by telephoning (800) 273-8255 or chat online. You can also text the crisis hotline by texting HOME to 741741.

Whether before, during, or after a crisis, there are many ways we can work together to provide support and prevent suicide.

September is Suicide Prevention Month

September is Suicide Prevention Month

The month of September is Suicide Prevention Month, with the week of 9/5/21-9/11/21 marking Suicide Prevention Week, and World Suicide Prevention Day on 9/10/21. This period is dedicated to tackling the stigma associated with suicide by promoting awareness, education, and support to ensure that those affected by suicide are aware of and have access to life-saving resources.

We remember and support those whose lives have been impacted by suicide and we fight to challenge the stigma associated with mental illness and suicidality.

As a therapist and human, I have witnessed and experienced the impact stigma has on help-seeking and the lives that are unnecessarily lost as a result.

This October 10th, I am running the Chicago Marathon for the charity, Hope for the Day, which emphasizes suicide prevention through early intervention, education, and destigmatizing mental illness and mental health treatment. Hope for the Day tells us all, “It’s OK not to be OK.”

Please donate to Hope for the Day to support their mission of suicide prevention.

Written By: Jill Perry, M.A., LCPC

Clarity Clinic

At Clarity Clinic, we have highly trained staff who specialize in therapy and psychiatry services. To learn more about how we can support your mental health, call Clarity Clinic on (312) 815-9660 or schedule an appointment today.

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