Content warning: The following blog article discusses the topic of suicide.
Throughout the month of September, and most especially on World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10) and Suicide Prevention Week (September 10 – 16) we remember the lives lost to suicide, the millions of people who have struggled with suicidal ideation, and acknowledge the individuals, families, and communities that have been impacted by suicide loss and attempts. This is also a time to raise awareness about suicide prevention, and spread the word that suicide prevention is everyone’s business!
There are things all of us can do to recognize Suicide Prevention Month and raise awareness, which will ultimately help save lives.
Know the Warning Signs
One of the most crucial aspects of suicide prevention is recognizing the warning signs. These can vary from person to person, but some common signs include:
- Expressing thoughts of suicide or a desire to die.
- A sudden change in behavior, such as withdrawing from social activities.
- Giving away possessions or making final arrangements.
- Increased use of drugs or alcohol.
- Drastic mood swings or expressions of hopelessness.
What should one do if they are feeling suicidal, or want to help a loved one who is exhibiting warning signs?
One of the best things you can do is to directly ask someone exhibiting warning signs if they have had thoughts of suicide/killing themself. Offer support, encouragement, and a non-judgmental listening ear. Let them know that it’s very normal to go through hard times or experience depression/anxiety and other mental health concerns, including thoughts of suicide. Reassure them that you are a safe place to bring those thoughts and concerns, and that you want to help be there for them. Often times, just having a safe and non-judgmental place to discuss a problem is immediately comforting and can reduce someone’s risk level. Breaking the stigma around mental illness and suicide, and showing someone that it is nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about and that you will continue to be there for them, can be immensely helpful.
It’s also helpful to know what resources are available to someone who needs help. For many people, coping mechanisms and safety planning, along with potentially receiving assistance like therapy, can be very beneficial. For those who are in crisis and may need immediate assistance, resources such as a suicide prevention helpline, walk-in center, mobile crisis team, or crisis stabilization may be worth exploring.
In the United States, 988 is the number to dial to reach the national network of centers who are specially training for suicide prevention. This number also acts as access to your community crisis hub where knowledgeable individuals answering calls/texts/chats will know what local resources are available, and how you or a loved one can access them.
Canada is currently in the process of adopting a nationwide 988 number as well. In the meantime, Talk Suicide Canada can be reached at 1-833-456-4566, or 1-866-277-3553 for those in Quebec.
Above all, we should recognize that suicide prevention is everyone’s business and responsibility. It’s on all of us to know the warning signs and know what to do to connect someone with the help they need. Some will avoid or ignore the issue thinking it is always best left to the professionals. And while that is true of providing someone with mental health treatment, anyone is capable of learning the warning signs and risk factors, and knowing what to do next.
Here are some steps you can take to make a difference during Suicide Prevention Month and beyond:
- Educate yourself: Learn more about the risk factors, warning signs, and available resources for suicide prevention. Consider taking a training like Mental Health First Aid, safeTALK, ASIST, or QPR.
- Reach out: If you suspect someone is struggling, don’t hesitate to ask them how they’re feeling and let them know you’re there to listen.
- Support mental health services: Advocate for increased funding and access to mental health services in your community. Encourage people to make donations to the non-profit organizations in your community that provide crisis services.
- Share resources: Use your platform to share information about crisis hotlines, support groups, and other resources available to those in need.
- Self-care: Take care of your mental health, and encourage others to do the same. Practicing self-care helps create a more empathetic and understanding society.
Suicide Prevention Month brings attention to an issue that affects far too many lives, and is a great entry point for many people to learn more about this important topic. But, it’s not enough to focus on suicide prevention for just one month a year. The work must continue year-round. By understanding the signs, breaking down stigma, and taking action to support those who are struggling, we can make a significant impact in the fight against suicide. Let’s work together to create a world where mental health is a priority, and every individual knows that they are not alone in their struggles. Remember, help is just a call or text away, and these organizations are here to support you or someone you care about.
From June 13-15, 2023, iCarol will participate and hold virtual exhibit space as part of the Texas Suicide Prevention Symposium.
This is our second year participating in the event and we look forward to engaging with professionals working to prevent suicide in Texas. There are numerous exciting projects and initiatives happening in the state. Texas has an impressive suicide prevention collaborative made up of nearly 40 community centers working to serve the entire state, including many who operate 988 as a primary or backup center.
We encourage you to visit our virtual exhibit booth using the Whova app. At our booth you can download several materials about how iCarol is serving suicide prevention centers including 988 centers, and the tools and technology available when you work with iCarol. Our virtual booth will be staffed during conference hours – please chat in with your questions and we’ll promptly respond! If you’d like to meet with us another time to learn more, please schedule a meeting at your convenience.
According to the US Census Bureau, the Hispanic or Latino population, which can include people of any race, was 62.1 million in 2020, or 18.9% of the total U.S. population. This represents 23% growth since 2010 and is the nation’s second largest racial or ethnic group. Over 71% of Hispanics or Latinos speak a language other than English at home, and 28% report that they are not fluent in English. Hispanic or Latino people can face barriers to obtain healthcare, including affordable and accessible mental healthcare. Aside from language, a lack of cultural competency among providers, stigma, and fears related to legal status can all prevent them from getting the assistance they need for any mental or behavioral health concerns.
One of the primary goals of instituting the 988 Lifeline service in the US was achieving greater access to mental health care for all, and a reimagination of what crisis and mental health care can be in communities across America. We know there can be disparities in access to care, and the quality of care itself, for BIPOC individuals including the Hispanic and Latino population. To reduce both language and cultural competency barriers to Hispanic or Latino people receiving care, and to ensure the answer rates for these calls can be as high as calls for English-speaking services, SAMHSA and Vibrant Emotional Health are seeking more Spanish-speaking centers to join the 988 Lifeline network.
If your organization has proficiency in Spanish language mental health, emotional wellbeing, or suicide prevention support through crisis counseling, and are interested in becoming a 988 Lifeline center, please visit https://988lifeline.org/our-network/ and contact the 988 Lifeline through the “Become a Lifeline Crisis Center” tab.
US Census Bureau
US Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health
The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through its Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), announced a $282 million investment to help transition the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline from its current 10-digit number to a three-digit dialing code – 988.
Once implemented, the 988 code is intended to be a first step toward transforming crisis care in the United States by creating a universal entry point to needed crisis services in line with access to other emergency medical services.
With funds from the Biden-Harris Administration’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 budget and additional funds from the American Rescue Plan, SAMHSA’s $282 million investment will support 988 efforts across the country to shore up, scale up and staff up, including:
- $177 million to strengthen and expand the existing Lifeline network operations and telephone infrastructure, including centralized chat/text response, backup center capacity, and special services (e.g., a sub-network for Spanish language-speakers).
- $105 million to build up staffing across states’ local crisis call centers.
Click here to read more about this funding announcement.
The team at iCarol is excited to see the commitment and investment on behalf of the US government towards the 988 initiative. We believe that 988 will improve accessibility and equity for Americans seeking emotional support and assistance. By designating a three-digit number for suicide prevention and mental health crises, our leaders send a clear message that these concerns deserve the same immediate attention and access to assistance as a physical health emergency, while also reducing harmful stigmas that create barriers to treatment. As the leading software provider among the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network of centers, we stand ready to support our customers making the transition to answering 988, and welcome new centers coming on board for the 988 initiative.
On Wednesday, June 16, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced that Vibrant Emotional Health will be the administrators of the new 988 dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the United States. Vibrant, in partnership with SAMHSA, has administered the Lifeline since its creation in 2005. Click here to read SAMHSA’s full statement.
The process of creating the three-digit national number to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has been ongoing for several years. Click here For more information on 988.
The team at iCarol extends our congratulations to Vibrant Emotional Health for being designated as administrators of the 988 dialing code. Through our years working with Vibrant Emotional Health and the many Lifeline Network Centers answering calls to 1-800-273-TALK, we have seen firsthand the passion and professionalism these teams bring to their work addressing the critical public health issues of suicide and mental health. We believe that 988 will improve accessibility and equity for Americans seeking emotional support and assistance. By designating a three-digit number for suicide prevention and mental health crises, our leaders send a clear message that these concerns deserve the same immediate attention and access to assistance as a physical health emergency, while also reducing harmful stigmas that create barriers to treatment. As the leading software provider among the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network of centers, we stand ready to support our customers making the transition to answering 988, and welcome new centers coming on board for the 988 initiative.
This Wednesday through Friday, members of our team will attend sessions at the American Association of Suicidology Conference, and we will also host a booth in the virtual exhibit hall.
The conference is a convergence of professionals working across the spectrum of the suicide prevention industry, from those operating crisis centers and other direct care services, to professionals working in academic settings conducting suicide prevention research, and advocates focused on prevention, education and awareness.
So we can continue to stay ahead of the topics that most impact iCarol’s customers, on Wednesday Dana will attend the Crisis Continuum pre-conference program, which concludes with a session on network updates and future directions for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Network.
Having supported crisis centers since the earliest days of the Lifeline network, and serving a large portion of the network that are iCarol customers, we have witnessed the Lifeline’s growth year after year, both in the number of participating centers and the volume of contacts the Lifeline receives through calls, chats, and other forms of communication. At this year’s update we’re anticipating the latest news from the 988 transition plan and how that will affect members of the Lifeline network. We’re also closely following the continuing conversations on how communities are changing their practices around responding to mental health emergencies and similar crises, with a shift towards crisis intervention teams and other professionals leading the response as opposed to law enforcement.
These discussions directly inform iCarol’s strategy and product development in the coming months and years, which ensures we will continue to meet the needs of suicide prevention and crisis centers everywhere, providing the tools they need to do their life-saving work.
If you plan to be at the AAS Conference, please stop by our virtual booth to download our new guides and materials, including a brand new ebook on choosing software for crisis intervention and suicide prevention services. We’ll also be available for virtual meetings at your convenience to answer your questions, or have conversations about your challenges or projects and explore how iCarol can be of assistance.