September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. This is a time for community members to come together and raise awareness on this stigmatized and often taboo topic. NAMI Vermont actively advocates for better mental health care systems and works to erase the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide throughout the state of Vermont. In addition to shifting public perception, we use this month to spread hope and share vital information with people affected by suicide. While suicide prevention is important to address year-round, Suicide Prevention Awareness Month provides a dedicated time to come together with collective passion and strength around this difficult but extremely important topic. Our goal is to ensure that everyone has access to the resources they need to discuss suicide prevention and can seek help if they or someone they know is experiencing thoughts of suicide.
Suicidal thoughts can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, or background. These thoughts occur too often, but they should not be considered common. In many cases, friends and families affected by a suicide loss (often called “suicide loss survivors”) are left in the dark, not knowing why this happened. Too often, the feelings of shame and stigma prevent individuals from talking openly about suicide and getting the support that they need. Talking openly with others about suicide is an important first step in building a community that is unafraid to shed light on the difficulties of mental illness and letting others know that they are not alone in experiencing dark thoughts.
“We can all benefit from honest and open conversations about mental health and suicide. Just one conversation can change a life. You can make a difference by being there to listen and support someone who may be struggling to get help and access treatment. 9-8-8 is the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline that is available 24/7 for individuals and family members. NAMI Vermont’s Support Groups are another great resource to help individuals connect with someone who understands, who has been there.” said Laurie Emerson, Executive Director, National Alliance on Mental Illness of Vermont.
Facts & Statistics
- In 2021, there were 142 deaths by suicide in Vermont.
- Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for Vermonters aged 10-34.
- The suicide death rate is 4 times higher for men than women.
- Hospital rates for intentional self-harm are more than twice as high for women as for men.
- LGBTQ students are almost five times more likely to attempt suicide than their non-LGBTQ counterparts.
- In 2019, more than half of all deaths by suicide were by firearms.
- 88% of firearm deaths were suicides in 2019.
- Transgender adults are nearly 9 times more likely to attempt suicide than cisgender adults.
While these statistics may be upsetting, there are ways that you can help yourself and others to help prevent suicide from happening. If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health, suicide, or substance use crisis or emotional distress, reach out 24/7 to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline (formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) by dialing or texting 988 or using chat services at suicidepreventionlifeline.org to connect to a trained crisis counselor. You can also get crisis text support via the Crisis Text Line by texting VT to 741741. Visit namivt.org/resources to find a comprehensive list of resources available for those in crisis and other non-crisis mental health resources.
Five Action Steps to Help
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) suggests five action steps to help someone in emotional pain:
- ASK: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It’s not an easy question, but studies show that asking at-risk individuals if they are suicidal does not increase suicides or suicidal thoughts.
- KEEP THEM SAFE: Reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal items or places is an important part of suicide prevention. While this is not always easy, asking if the at-risk person has a plan and removing or disabling the lethal means can make a difference.
- BE THERE: Listen carefully and learn what the individual is thinking and feeling. Research suggests acknowledging and talking about suicide may in fact reduce rather than increase suicidal thoughts.
- HELP THEM CONNECT: Save the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline number (call or text 988) and the Crisis Text Line number (741741) in your phone so they’re there if you need them. You can also help make a connection with a trusted individual like a family member, friend, spiritual advisor, or mental health professional.
- STAY CONNECTED: Staying in touch after a crisis or after being discharged from care can make a difference. Studies have shown the number of suicide deaths goes down when someone follows up with the at-risk person.
September is also National Recovery Month. This is a time to honor and celebrate the strong community of people in recovery from substance abuse and addiction. Substance use disorders and mental illness are often co-occurring. This means that someone who has a substance use disorder may also have a mental health condition (or vice versa). NAMI Vermont recognizes the challenges faced by those in recovery and celebrates members of the community for their strength in seeking help and showing others that recovery is not only possible, but within reach.
Friends and family members of individuals with suicidal thoughts may benefit from taking a class. NAMI Family-to-Family Class is a free, evidence-based 8-week course structured to help families and friends of individuals with a mental health condition understand and support their loved ones while maintaining their own well-being. NAMI Vermont is offering classes starting in September and October 2023. You may also contact NAMI Vermont directly to learn more at [email protected] or 800-639-6480.
Shared as a press release on September 6, 2023.