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September is Suicide Prevention Month, simple tools can support survival

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- Each September, mental health supporters gather to try and lower the number of suicides across the country. It's Suicide Prevention Month, and the goal is to raise awareness about this issue across the country and the world.

Over 48,000 Americans ended their own lives in 2021, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control. Over 38,000 were men. It's the 12th leading cause of death in the U.S.

While these are stark statistics, there is hope. Suicide Prevention Month is about raising awareness about options for supporting those who attempt, informing individuals with strategies for prevention and promote connection between everyone.

A key factor, according to experts with the CDC and researchers, is communication. Talking and listening -- actively -- to suicidal individuals can help people move away from the edge. But how does a person recognize signs, and ask important questions without confrontation?

Survivors have told ABC-7 one of the best ways to help someone considering suicide is to be available. Offer to go on walks with them, be available to talk, offer them a chance to get out of the house and see the world around them.

The Centers for Disease Control suggests that people create safe environment for suicidal individuals. This could include removing lethal items from the home -- like guns, knives or pills. Organization can really help -- setting up scheduled events, getting a person connected to their community and structure can improve feelings of importance.

Suicide affects all groups, and well over 12 million had considered it. The CDC estimates over a million people attempted suicide, and millions of others made a plan. The highest rate of suicide was in Native Americans, followed by non-Hispanic whites.

The American Psychological Association says suicide often occurs surrounding a major depressive episode, but that's not the only factor. Substance abuse, difficult or stressful situations or other body disorders can increase the risks.

Identifying someone who is suicidal can be a key step in prevention, according to federal experts. Recognizing warning signs of suicidal behavior -- like isolation, lack of communication and comments about being gone -- could be the difference.

The APA says that trouble sleeping, preoccupation over death, suicide or dying, preparation of wills, unnecessary risks -- or sudden use of drugs/alcohol can be red flags of suicide attempts.

Seeing, understanding and addressing these symptoms can be important factors in preventing or reducing suicide risks, according to APA materials.

It can also be helpful to create a support plan in case of an attempt can be very helpful, the CDC says. This could include taking them to a safe and calm location, or to limit options for a follow-up attempt. And "postvention" can be a useful tool, checking in with someone's mental state following an attempt or discovery of suicide materials.

Suicides happen in every group, but there are two categories in particular that are worth noting.

"The suicide rate among males in 2021 was approximately four times higher than the rate among females," the CDC states on their website. "Males make up 50% of the population but nearly 80% of suicides."

Elderly individuals over age 85 made up the highest number of suicides in 2021, CDC figures show. Experts tell ABC-7 that isolation, loneliness, and self-seperation can lead to increased risks of suicide.

Again, experts believe that listening and responding to concerns by suicidal individuals can make a huge difference for both of these groups. There are a number of suicide support systems including:

  • NAMI El Paso - As part of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, there are some options listed on their website for support and connection. NAMI is focused on providing support to anyone with any sort of mental illness.
  • 988: The National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline - Anyone can contact the Crisis line through phone, text or message any time, for any mental distress.
  • The 988 line has a dedicated Veterans Crisis Line
  • EHN Crisis Hotline: (915-779-1800) - Staffed by locals, and a long-term resource in El Paso, Emergence Health Network's hotline has specialists ready to hear you out.
  • Emergence Health - EHN is able to offer many different forms of support for mental health and wellness. From pet therapy to addiction treatment.

It's important to note that these are just tools, and suicide support includes multiple forms of support. Psychological support can be a very important factor in preventing future attempts, according to the APA.

Avery Martinez covers mental health in the Borderland as part of ABC-7’s Be Mindful initiative. He is also a Report for America corps member. RFA places talented, emerging journalists in newsrooms like ABC-7’s to report on under-covered issues and communities. Report for America is an initiative of The GroundTruth Project, an award-winning nonprofit journalism organization dedicated to rebuilding journalism from the ground up.

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