Why Suicide Prevention Month is Important

By Sarah D. Afromowitz, MA

Suicide Prevention Program Development Practicum Student at OHSU/Portland VA

Note: Talking about suicide can be an emotional topic, and if you’re reading this and not feeling up for it, that’s okay! However, if you want to know a little more about why Suicide Prevention Month is important, please read on. If you are seeking support, please contact The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 800-273-8255.

Suicide Prevention Month helps us become more comfortable discussing mental health issues, become more aware of suicide, engage others who are thinking about suicide, and know resources for those who are feeling suicidal. The month-long efforts of Suicide Prevention Month are just the beginning, and these messages are meant to be carried with us and by us throughout the year. This month of awareness helps remind us that suicide is not inevitable, and we each can take a role in reducing the risk of suicide by helping others get the support they need.

Below, we will review reasons for discussing suicide and suicide prevention and provide resources for those who are experiencing a mental health crisis or suicidal ideation.

Reasons for suicide prevention messaging:

Suicide Prevention Month diminishes the harmful idea that asking one another about suicide or mental health issues is taboo. Much of the messaging during Suicide Prevention Month highlights possible warning signs individuals might display when they are contemplating suicide and establishes that it is important to be direct when asking others if they are considering suicide. Exposure to suicide prevention discussions helps both individuals and our entire community in four ways:

  • Increasing awareness:

Most people in our community have been touched by suicide in some way, but we don’t discuss it as much as we should. Many people find the topic of suicide daunting, scary or uncomfortable. However, those familiar with suicide prevention know that it does not take much to make a big difference. Connecting to others in your community, recognizing warning signs and reaching out can save lives. More awareness of others’ experiences increases empathy and combats the surprise that many survivors feel after losing others to suicide – that they had no idea what their friend or loved one was going through.

  • Reducing stigma:

By normalizing the discussion of mental health issues, we reduce stigma and barriers of asking each other for help when we are feeling vulnerable. Additionally, showing others that you are willing to discuss mental health issues opens the door to reach out for help among those who might be struggling with thoughts of harming themselves.

  • Reducing risk:

Talking is an important part of the healing process for many people considering suicide. Community support and mental health treatment are essential. When we openly discuss suicide and connect with mental health resources, everyone feels less isolated, we build connection and we ultimately all play an important part of preventing suicide attempts.

  • Building support systems:

Suicide Prevention Month reminds us that conversations about mental health are important. By engaging in these conversations with others, we have opportunities to strengthen our relationships with friends and family and connect in ways that we may not have before. Having individuals within our community who are not afraid to talk about mental health and have substantive conversations of how we are truly doing, can lead to feeling less alone. Additionally, mental health treatment providers are an important part of a support system, and they offer support in ways that friends and family may not be able to.

As Suicide Prevention Month comes to an end, we know messaging will continue every year during the month of September, but it’s up to all of us to continue destigmatizing mental health and supporting one another throughout all months of the year. Small steps save lives. Reach out to someone you care about today and remind yourself to keep reaching out throughout the year.

General resources:

Below are some general resources if you or someone you care about may need access to urgent mental health care. Often calling a crisis line can be anxiety-provoking – if you have the time, it might be helpful to practice or write down some of the things you wish to share with the person on the other line.

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
    • 800-273-8255
  • Crisis Text Line
    • Text HOME to 741741
  • Alcohol and Drug Helpline
    • 800-923-4357
  • Mental Health Urgent Care
    • Multnomah County: 503-963-2575
    • Washington County: 503-846-4555
    • Clackamas County: 503-742-5335
  • Suicide Bereavement Support
  • Food, housing, health, and other resources
    • Dial 2-1-1