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Take a Minute, Change a Life drives the theme of this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day. For the last 13 years the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have designated September 10th as a day to raise global awareness surrounding this complex issue. Countries, states, cities and communities can all use effective prevention measures to save lives.
What Are the Suicide Statistics in the United States and Around the World?
- Worldwide, an estimated 800,000 people a year dies from suicide. That’s one person every 40 seconds. according to the WHO
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in the U.S., suicide is among the top 10 causes of death and is actually the leading cause of death for people under the age of 34
- Furthermore, specific populations are at a greater risk for suicide. For example, an estimated 20 U.S. veterans a day suffer from suicide. Those are higher rates than civilians based on 2014 data from the Office of Veterans Affairs
- The CDC also reports that the suicide rate in the U.S. has risen by 24 percent
There is vigorous debate in medical circles about whether or not some people are born with, for lack of a better phrase, a suicide gene that makes them more susceptible to killing themselves. “Suicide is the result of a complex interaction among factors,” Harvard psychology professor, Matthew Nock, writes in the Washington Post, “that cannot be reduced to a single piece of genetic code.”
Yet, it’s clear that certain untreated conditions, such as depression, substance abuse, addiction or a family history of suicide among others, do increase the risk of suicidal thoughts or tendencies in a people.
What Can Be Done to Help Those at Risk of Suicide?
As World Suicide Prevention Day approaches, the theme of Connect, Communicate and Care, put forth by the IASP and WHO, take on greater resonance:
- There is much to be gained and learned by connecting with support and prevention groups. Many of the organizations count among their members, suicide survivors, as well as those that have coped with the loss of a loved one through suicide.
- Moreover, reaching out to anyone that has isolated himself or herself, for whatever reason, is a key step in suicide prevention. “Social connectedness,” says the IASP, “reduces the risk of suicide, so being there for someone who has become disconnected can be a life-saving act.”
- The heavy stigma surrounding suicide often makes it a difficult subject to talk about it. Research shows that the kind of communication on the topic matters. It should include careful and considerate messages. People that have recovered from suicidal behaviors or attempts report that empathy, non-judgment and listening were the most effective and healing forms of communication.
- Caring for those at risk for suicide takes the effort of entire communities. Raising public awareness is important so that those with mental health or substance abuse issues are able to receive the treatment they need before reaching levels of desperation that drive them to suicide.
September 10th, World Suicide Prevention Day, is an opportunity to step outside of our normal day-to-day routines and learn how to Connect, Communicate and Care for those around us who might be quietly suffering and hoping for help. Visit IASP’s website for information on how to get involved.