Suicide Prevention

Do you need help right now? Call or Text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 9-8-8.

We all have a role in Suicide Prevention. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people 10 to 24 years of age, following unintentional injuries. There are many practical, effective interventions parents and others can undertake to decrease the risk of a child attempting or dying by suicide. 

Honoring Survivors of Suicide Loss

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), a leading suicide research and prevention organization in the U.S., invites those who have lost someone to suicide to participate in a day of healing.

This year’s International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day (also known as “Survivor Day”) is Saturday, November 18, 2023. Survivor Day is a day for those affected by suicide loss to gather (in-person and virtually) at one of more than 300 events held worldwide on or near the day’s observance to find connection, understanding, and hope through shared experiences.

AFSP provides a safe space where survivors of suicide loss are encouraged to come together in their local communities to find comfort and community as they share stories of healing and hope. Survivor Day events offer attendees the opportunity to learn coping strategies, embrace grief and discover resources to help with each unique healing journey.

This year, Survivor Day Live will be hosted at 4pm (PT) on Saturday, November 18, 2023 – a virtual experience designed to bring communities together from across the world via Facebook and YouTube Live. A screening of the NEW AFSP-produced documentary, Healing Together: Culture, Community and Suicide Loss will be presented followed by a panel discussion with several loss survivors who will share their grief journey, offer hope, and show how you are not alone.

All Survivor Day events are closed to the media to protect the confidentiality and grieving process of survivors. These events encourage attendees to share their stories openly and honestly in order to drive grief support and healing. Most Survivor Day events are for ages 18+ and older to attend.

To learn more, visit >> survivorday.org.

To connect with suicide loss survivors in your area, visit >> isosld.afsp.org.

Share AFSP’s Living with Suicide Loss video series >> featuring personal stories, journeys, and wisdom of those who have affected by suicide loss.

Source: PRNewswire and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP

Logo for International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day

In 1999, Survivor Day was created by an Act of Congress following the passage of a resolution introduced by Senator Harry Reid, whose father took his own life in 1972. Each year, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) sponsors the Survivor Day program that unites survivors of suicide loss across the world.

AFSP is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide, including those who have experienced a loss. AFSP creates a culture that’s smart about mental health through public education and community programs, develops suicide prevention through research and advocacy, and provides support for those affected by suicide. Led by CEO Robert Gebbia and headquartered in New York, and with a public policy office in Washington, D.C., AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states, DC and Puerto Rico with programs and events nationwide.

For more information, visit: afsp.org.

Image of speech bubble in white on bright blue background that reads "Talk Saves Lives"
Courtesy: AFSP

Talking is the first step to preventing suicide.

YOU can make a difference by learning the warning signs and risk factors, having a REAL conversation with someone you care about, and sharing resources and creative ways to help #TalkAwayTheDark.

Learn more & share these resources:

If you or someone you know is in a crisis:

  • CALL or TEXT 988
  • Text TALK to 741741

2023 National Suicide Prevention Month

We can all help prevent suicide. Every year, mental health organizations and individuals across the U.S. and around the world raise awareness of suicide prevention during September, National Suicide Prevention Month. This month is a time to remember the lives lost to suicide, the millions of people who have and continue to struggle with mental health and suicide ideation, and to acknowledge all those who have been impacted by suicide.

World Suicide Prevention Day is September 10. This day is meant to remember those affected by suicide, to raise awareness, and to focus efforts on directing treatment to those who need it most. National Suicide Prevention Week is the Monday through Sunday surrounding World Suicide Prevention Day. It’s a time to share resources and stories, as well as promote suicide prevention awareness.

How to Get Involved:

  • Learn the warning signs and risk factors for suicide, how to support someone considering suicide, and familiarize yourself with the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.
  • Educate by bringing the Talk Saves Lives program to your school or workplace
  • Watch a special episode of “Ask Dr. Jill”: Research helps us understand what leads someone to suicide, and how we may effectively save more lives. This September, you can tune in to a special episode of Ask Dr. Jill, featuring AFSP’s Senior Vice President of Research, Dr. Jill Harkavy-Friedman with guest Dr. Madelyn Gould, an expert on suicide contagion and reporting and storytelling practices that safely drive the national conversation

Source: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP); Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Source: SAMHSA, 988 Suicide & Crisis Hotline, Trust for America’s Health’s (TFAH), Crisis Text Line, Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC), and Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)

  • Join a local AFSP chapter: AFSP’s local chapters bring together dedicated volunteers, many of whom have a personal connection to the cause. Their chapters form a community of people who lead by example, spreading hope through local programs, activities and events. Their Out of the Darkness Walks, take place in communities everywhere, to raise awareness and much-needed funds, strongly sending the message that suicide can be preventable, and that no one is alone.
  • Advocate for support for the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, and other mental health policies that will make a difference: Speak your mind and let your public officials know you’re ready to stand up by becoming a Volunteer Advocate and learning more how we can support issues like funding and support for 988

Source: AFSP

  • Find a local Washington State in-person/virtual event near you here:
  • Attend an International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day event: Those who have lost a loved one to suicide often feel hesitant to tell others the type of loss they have experienced. September is a great time to spread the word about the hundreds of local and virtual “Survivor Day” events taking place November 18 – including Día de Esperanza (Day of Hope) for the Hispanic community November 17 – enabling survivors of suicide loss to come together to find connection, understanding, and hope through their shared experience. 

Source: AFSP; UW Forefront

  • Connect people to help through the Interactive Screening Program (ISP): Even when people know about available mental health services, shame, fear, and embarrassment often prevent them from seeking help. ISP is a customized platform that starts a confidential conversation that often leads people to support. Learn how to bring ISP to your own school or organization.

Source: AFSP

Suicide Prevention

Suicidal thoughts, much like mental health conditions, can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background. In fact, suicide is often the result of an untreated mental health condition. Suicidal thoughts, although common, should not be considered normal and often indicate more serious issues. Everyone in Washington has a role in suicide prevention, suicide is a preventable public health problem.

Defining Terms:

  • Suicide is defined as death caused by self-directed injurious behavior with intent to die as a result of the behavior.
  • suicide attempt is a non-fatal, self-directed, potentially injurious behavior with intent to die as a result of the behavior. A suicide attempt might not result in injury.
  • suicidal ideation refers to thinking about, considering, or planning suicide.

 

Recognize the signs. Know what to do.

Among both children and adolescents, the warning signs of suicide can include:

  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
  • Increased, persistent irritability
  • Frequent or pervasive sadness
  • Withdrawal from friends, family, and regular activities
  • >5 hours per day of internet/game use, especially in the context of decreased time spent in other routines and activities
  • Frequent complaints about physical symptoms often related to emotions, such as stomachaches, headaches, fatigue, etc.
  • Decline in the quality of schoolwork
  • Preoccupation with death and dying

Among teenagers, the warning signs of suicide can also include:

  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Violent actions, rebellious behavior, or running away
  • Unusual neglect of personal appearance
  • Marked personality change

Risk Factors:

Suicidal ideation, self-injurious behaviors, and suicide attempts are most often associated with depression. In addition to depression, other risk factors include:

  • Family history of suicide attempts
  • Parental mental health problems
  • Rupture or high conflict in the parent-child relationship
  • Prior suicide attempt(s)
  • Abuse and neglect
  • Exposure to violence
  • Impulsivity
  • Aggressive or disruptive behavior
  • Access to firearms
  • Bullying
  • Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
  • LGBTQ identity, especially in those youth who gender identity is not validated or supported
  • Acute loss or rejection
  • Non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI)
  • Evidence of Borderline Personality Disorder traits and behaviors

What You Can Do:

If someone talks about or exhibits behaviors that make you suspect the person is suicidal, follow these steps:

  • Take it seriously.
  • Talk to the person. Listen and show compassion. “I know you’ve had a hard time lately, how are you holding up?”
  • Ask, “Are you thinking about hurting yourself?”.
  • If you feel the person is suicidal, do not leave them alone. Remove all possible lethal means from the area (including firearms and medications).
  • Refer the person to help (National suicide support: www.SuicidePreventionLifeline.org; Seattle-King County: www.CrisisClinic.org)
  • Get help: If they don’t or can’t contact someone, do it for them.

Courtesy: AACAP

Communities Facing Barriers

Multigenerational Families

Trauma and grief can be passed from one generation to the next, especially through cycles of family violence. This can increase risky behaviors.  For adults in the family, there can be an impulse to hide a family member’s suicide and to keep it as a secret. Lying or hiding information from younger members of the family about painful memories can erode trust. As some behavioral health problems have genetic ties, it may be important for younger generations to understand if they are at risk.

How to talk about suicide

While talking about suicide might feel uncomfortable, it’s an important conversation to have. Depending on the child’s age, there are different ways to approach the issue. The American Psychiatric Association recommends adults avoid talking about tragedies with children until they are at least 8 years old, unless it presents itself as an issue. Don’t wait too long to have the conversation: suicide is the second leading cause of death for children who are 10 to 14 years of age.
  • Very young children: Tell them someone died and that they were very sick.
  • Ages seven to 10: Use short statements. Don’t shy away from the truth and wait for any follow-up questions. Approach the conversation the same way you would if someone had a physical illness.
  • Ages 11 to 14: Start the conversation with questions to find out what they know about suicide and correct any misinformation. Talk to them about warning signs, suicidal thoughts and if their friends have talked about it.
  • High school age: Speak to them about suicide the same way you would speak to an adult. Assure them that it’s ok if they have mental health problems. Talk to them about what they would do if they or one of their friends had suicidal thoughts.

Source: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan; JED Foundation

American Indians & Alaska Natives (AI/AN)

  • In 2015, suicide was the 2nd leading cause of death for American Indians and Alaska Natives ages 10-34.
  • Native youth have the highest suicide rate of any group in the United States. Among young people age 15-24, the suicide rate in 2015 was 60 percent higher than the national rate.

AI/AN Resources & Research

In addition to the suicide risk factors that face most young Americans, American Indian/Alaska Native youth have layers of risk that increase their susceptibility to suicidal thoughts. According to the Indian Health Service, they may feel cut off from other people, or isolated on reservations, perceive or suffer discrimination, or be burdened by historical trauma shared by earlier generations related to experiences of colonialism, wars, dislocation from land, and separation from family by Indian boarding schools.

Relative to the tremendous toll suicide takes on American Indian and Alaskan Native communities, there is a substantial deficit in research. If you have data or resources you would like us to add, please let us know (hiprccom@uw.edu).

Veterans

  • In 2020, there were 6,146 Veteran suicide deaths, which was 343 fewer than in 2019
  • An estimated 18-22 veterans die by suicide every day

See the complete 2022 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, here >> (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

Veteran Resources & Research

Veterans and active duty soldiers face unique circumstances. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, emotional and mental health crises are heightened for men and women who serve or have served in the military. Studies found this to be particularly true in the three years immediately following deployment. The VA says that these unique factors exacerbate crisis moments for veterans:

  • Frequent or prolonged deployments
  • Exposure to extreme stress
  • Physical/sexual assault while in the service (not limited to women)
  • Service-related injury

These resources will help you learn more about veterans and suicide. If you work for an organization that would like to have a resource added, please let us know.

LGBTQI+

  • 69% percent of LGBQ+ youth felt hopeless or sad every day for 2+ weeks, compared to 35% percent of heterosexual youth (2021)
  • During the pandemic, LGBQ+ high students were about four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers.
  • Although the pandemic made these disparities worse, they have been persistent over time.
  • LGBQ+ youth consistently report higher rates of bullying, being threatened or injured with a weapon, and dating violence. They are also more likely to miss school because of safety concerns.
  • Disparities are particularly pronounced in the areas of sexual violence. LGBQ+ students are four times as likely to experience forced sex.
  • During the pandemic, 20% of LGBQ+ students said they had been physically abused by a parent or other adult in their home. For heterosexual students, that figure was 10%.

In a national study, 40% of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt. 92 percent of these individuals reported having attempted suicide before the age of 25.4

LGBTQI+ Resources & Research

Like other oppressed communities, LGBTQI+ communities are disproportionately at risk for suicide and other mental health struggles due to historic and ongoing structural violence. This section has information and resources for those looking for help and support for yourself or loved ones who identify within the vast, diverse, and thriving LGBTQI+ communities.

Suicide Data

Suicide rates have been increasing for two decades now. Moreover, youth suicide has risen in recent years, along with anxiety and depression. Suicide is the 2nd-leading cause of death among young people 10 to 24 years of age, following unintentional injuries, in the United States. 

Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic caused fear, anxiety, loneliness, and grief. Its social isolation may raise the risk of depression for years into the future. One in three middle and high school students surveyed in 2022 were pretty or extremely worried about friends or family getting sick with COVID-19.

COURTESY WSDOH

Image 4 of 4

Courtesy: CDC; AFSP; Washington State Department of Health

Mental Health Check-In

Make the commitment to check-in with your family, friends, colleagues, or loved ones. Making it a point to check in on kids’ daily mental health gives them a window of opportunity to ask for help if or when they need it.

To start a conversation:

  1. Set aside time to talk. It is recommended to try for 15 minutes or longer. Get rid of distractions. This time is just about checking-in. Avoid phones, tablets, or television.
  2. Ask open-ended questions. Start a discussion by asking “What went well today?” and “What could have gone better?” Try to make these conversations part of your daily routine, either at dinnertime or just before kids go to bed.
  3. Listen and validate. Let them express their ideas fully before you respond. If your child expresses feelings of sadness or worry, resist the urge to “fix” the problem immediately. Instead, let them know that it’s okay – and even understandable – to feel this way right now.
  4. Come up with solutions together. Help them come up with ideas for how to make the next day better or identify someone who can help, like a therapist, doctor, or pastor. Help kids focus on what they can control, which can help them better handle stress and anxiety by helping them identify aspects of life they have influence over, while acknowledging there are a lot of thing they don’t have control of now.
  5. Schedule time for your next check-in. Be sure to create a routine for check-ins, whether it’s daily or weekly.
  6. And finally, provide reassurance that life will eventually get back to normal.

Grief after Loss

“If you have lost someone to suicide, the first thing you should know is that you are not alone. Each year, nearly 48,000 people in the United States die by suicide — the grieving family and friends they leave behind are known as suicide loss survivors. In fact, research shows that during the course of our lives, many of us will lose someone we care about to suicide. That means there are millions of suicide loss survivors who, like you, are trying to cope with this heartbreaking loss.

Suicide loss survivors often experience a wide range of grief reactions.
Learn more and provide support:

Attend an event >> intheforefront.org

Watch this video >> Suicide Prevention & Understanding Grief

Share these resources >> Suicide Prevention & Understanding Grief after Suicide, Traditional & Non-Traditional Therapies, and Suicide Grief Resources

Sources: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and UW Forefront Suicide Prevention

Help is Available

If you are considering suicide or self-harm:

Additional Resources:

For families with private insurance:

  • Contact your insurance company and ask for a list of in-network providers or access therapists/providers in your area, who accept your insurance.

For families with Medicaid:

SLIDE DECK

Suicide Prevention – (PDF)

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INFOGRAPHICS

Suicide Prevention Resource Guide – (PNG) | (JPG)

LEARN Saves Lives – (PNG) | (JPG)

WA State Suicide Statistics – (PNG) | (JPG)

William P. French, MD, DFAACAP – (PNG) | (JPG)

Risk Factors
Slide 1 – (PNG) | (JPG)
Slide 2 – (PNG) | (JPG)

Warning Signs
Slide 1 – (PNG) | (JPG)
Slide 2 – (PNG) | (JPG)

Mental Health Check-In – (PNG) | (JPG)

Resources – (PNG) | (JPG)

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RESOURCE FLIERS

How to… Talk to Your Child After a Tragedy Occurs
English – (PDF) | (JPG)

Resources
English – (PDF) | (JPG)

Cómo… Hablar con su Hijo Después de una Tragedia
Spanish / Español – (PDF) | (JPG)

Recursos
Spanish / Español – (PDF) | (JPG)

For physicians, social workers, medical professionals, law enforcement & others:

Firearm Injury & Suicide Prevention Strategies
English – (PDF)

Estrategias de prevención de suicidios y lesiones por arma de fuego
Spanish / Español – (PDF)

Do you need help right now? Call or Text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 9-8-8.

This website is provided for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute providing medical advice or professional services. The information provided should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, and those seeking personal medical advice should consult with a licensed physician. No physician-patient relationship is created by this website or its use. Neither HIPRC, the University of Washington, nor its employees, nor any contributor to this website, makes any representations, express or implied, with respect to the information provided herein or to its use.