National Suicide Prevention Month is upon us again. This month represents hope: hope as we create more awareness around suicide; hope found in the resources available; and hope as we see the stigma around addressing suicide decrease. This month also can represent pain for those who have been touched by suicide. Whatever you are feeling this September, there are things you can do to create hope in your family and your community. Learn the warning signs and risk factors for suicide, or attend a training (many trainings are now offered online) to learn how to intervene and refer if someone is considering suicide, and help spread the word about the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.
SAMHSA is committed to suicide prevention year-round. Our commitment is evident in our leadership, our funding opportunities, and our partnerships. Many of our funding opportunities help address groups that are disproportionately affected by suicide.
American Indian and Tribal Communities: American Indian and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) experience disproportionately high rates of suicide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2022 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), from 2015-2020, suicide rates among AI/AN individuals increased almost 20 percent. While provisional estimates of suicide rates among this population decreased in 2022, their suicide rates are still much higher than the national average. Incorporating culture as a protective factor has been shown to help AI/AN individuals, especially youth, have an increased sense of purpose and belonging and can reduce suicidal ideation. At SAMHSA, we have developed a program called Native Connections that supports a model of increasing community readiness to address suicide.
Black Youth: Black youth have been experiencing rapidly increasing rates of suicide deaths and attempts. According to CDC data, suicide deaths of Black youth and young adults between the ages of 10-24 increased significantly from 2018-2021. Connecting Black youth with culturally supportive suicide prevention and mental health supports can help reduce suicidal ideation and attempts among Black youth. At SAMHSA, we’ve created a Black Youth Suicide Prevention Initiative to help develop strategies to support Black youth. To learn more about supporting this population, check out the HHS Report to Congress on African American Youth Suicide (PDF | 1.3 MB).
LGBTQ+ Youth: Youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer/questioning are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers because of the stigma and mistreatment they experience in society.. LGBTQ+ youth who have even one supportive adult in their life (e.g., a parent, a coach, a teacher, mentor, friend’s parent, etc.) are 40% less likely to report a suicide attempt. You can check out the Suicide Prevention Resource Center’s (SPRC) newly released Mental Health and Suicide Prevention for LGBTQIA2S+ Youth Resource Guide as well as SAMHSA’s Family Counseling and Support for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex+ Youth and their Families grant for more information.
Older Adults: Data released by the CDC indicated a significant increase in suicide deaths among older adults aged 64 and over in 2022. Understanding challenges that older adults face — such as increased chances of developing a chronic illness, which can be connected to a sense of burdensomeness and perhaps suicidal thoughts and behaviors — can help create meaningful supports for this population. Screening for suicide risk among older adults is another strategy to identify older adults at risk for suicide. To learn more about supporting the mental health of older adults, SAMHSA’s E4 Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Disparities in Aging can be helpful.
Persons with Lived Experience: Whether you have had thoughts of suicide yourself, have loved or supported someone who has survived a suicide attempt, or lost someone to suicide, it is important to take extra care of yourself and to be mindful of your needs for support and self-care. Some of the ways you can do this are learning how to support someone considering suicide, browsing resources for suicide attempt survivors or suicide loss survivors, and taking care of your own mental health and well-being. The SPRC’s Lived Experience Advisory Committee is working to engage the field around integrating lived experience in suicide prevention activities.
Persons with Substance Use Disorders: Substance use disorders (SUDs) are associated with significantly increased risk of suicide in the United States, especially among individuals experiencing multiple SUDs. Share facts on substance use and misuse and connect people in your social and professional communities to evidence-based prevention information and tools, such as: SAMHSA’s “Talk. They Hear You.” campaign, including its new mobile app, which helps parents and caregivers start conversations about substance misuse prevention; SAMHSA’s Student Assistance Program which provides schools and educator resources to help teachers, administrators and other school professionals play a role in preventing underage substance use and abuse; harm reduction; and other SAMHSA resources on substance misuse and opioid overdose.
We all play a role in suicide prevention. When you start a conversation with a loved one who may be struggling with thoughts of suicide and offer support and model self-care, you are providing hope to those who may need it most. If you are a part of one of the groups highlighted above or have a loved one who is, we encourage you to build from the momentum this month to incorporate additional support and learning opportunities in your community.