September is National Suicide Prevention Month in the U.S. In honor of this month, we’ll share resources and highlight ways that everyone can make a difference in the life of a suicidal teen or adult. In this post, we share awareness of World Suicide Prevention Day, which occurs this year on Tuesday, September 10th.
Please read the first two posts in this series: Suicide Prevention Month: When It Comes to Suicide, We Can All Save a Life, which contains helpful information about suicide and suicide prevention from a police officer with years of experience helping people live through suicide-related crisis moments, and Suicide Prevention Month: Five Action Steps, which offers evidence-based techniques for communicating with individuals who may be considering suicide.
World Suicide Prevention Day
In 2002, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched the first World Suicide Prevention Day in collaboration with the International Association of Suicide Prevention (IASP). The goal of World Suicide Prevention Day is to raise awareness, share resources, and teach the general public basic suicide facts and offer evidence-based information about how individuals and communities can help prevent suicide around the world.
Over the past seventeen years, the event has grown in both size and scope. In 2018, the WHO partnered with thousands of people worldwide, including researchers, policymakers, government, and non-profit agencies and commissions, and those members of the community who have a shared, lived experience of suicide, including survivors and friends and family of survivors. The 2018 event involved 270 events in 62 countries, all organized around this central theme:
“Working Together to Prevent Suicide”
The WHO and the IASP introduced and will continue with this theme for World Suicide Prevention Day through 2020. The effort to educate communities and bring people together around suicide prevention is more important now than ever. In the United States, overall suicide rates have increased 33% since 1999, with a 44% increase for people age 15-24. Suicide now ranks as the second leading cause of death for people age 10-24.
That’s why raising awareness – and spreading the word that suicide is preventable – is a priority for anyone concerned about the health and welfare of adolescents and young adults.
The figures cited above are alarming, but they’re only part of the story. We’re focused on adolescents and young adults, by default, but the problem of suicide affects us all.
Here are some big picture figures it’s important to know:
In the U.S. in 2017:
- 47,173 people died by suicide
- 1.4 million people attempted suicide
- Men died by suicide 3.5 times more often than women
- White males accounted for 69% of suicide deaths
- There were an average of 129 suicide deaths per day
Now we’ll offer data specific to adolescents. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) National Youth Risk Behavior Survey 2017 indicates that in 2017, among high school students (9th-12th grade) :
- 7.4% reported at least one suicide attempt in the past 12 months
- 9.3% of females
- 5.1% of males
- 23% of LGBTQI+ students reported at last one suicide attempt in the past 12 months
- 5.4% of heterosexual students
- 14.3% of students who were not sure of their sexual orientation
- 17.2% reported seriously considering suicide in the past 12 months
- 22.1% of females
- 11.9% of males
- 47% of LGBTQI+ high school students reported seriously considering suicide
- 13.3% of non-LGBTQI+ students
- 31.8% of students who were not sure of their sexual orientation
Two facts from this set of statistics stand out. First, more adolescent girls attempt and die by suicide than adolescent boys, which is the opposite of overall suicide numbers discussed above, where the numbers for men are higher. However, a deep look inside the figures shows the suicide rate for adolescent boys increased by more than 15% from 2007-2017. Second, the number of LGBTQI+ students who considered and attempted suicide is almost triple that of non-LGBTQI+ students across almost all categories.
What We Can Do
These numbers allow us to direct our resources to the most vulnerable members of the adolescent population: while all adolescent girls and boys need our attention, particularly those who live with depression or mood disorders, LGBTQI+ students appear most vulnerable. Parents, teachers, administrators, friends, and family members should all understand that the most important thing they can do to help these teens is reach out, communicate, and offer unconditional love and support – sometimes one kind conversation, phone call, or text can help someone turn the corner.
In addition, anyone who knows a teen who needs help can direct them to the following suicide support services:
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (24/7/365): 1-800-273-8255
- The Trevor Project Phone (24/7/365): 1-866-488-7386
- Note: The Trevor Project was originally created to support LGBTQI+ teens in crisis. However, they will help anyone who calls.
- The Trevor Project Text (7 days/wk, 6am-am ET, 3am-10pm PT): Text START to 678678
- The Trevor Project Chat: CLICK HERE
- The Crisis Text Line (24/7/365): Text CONNECT to 741741
- The Youth Yellow Pages TEEN LINE (6pm-10pm PT) 310-855-4673
- The Youth Yellow Pages TEXT: Text TEEN to 839863
Angus is a writer from Atlanta, GA who writes about behavioral health, adolescent development, education, and mindfulness practices like yoga, tai chi, and meditation.