#BeTheLight – World Suicide Prevention Day

In 2003, September 10 was designated World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) in conjunction with the World Health Organization (WHO). It is an advocacy and communication-based event aimed at reaching national organizations, governments and the general public with the message that suicide can be prevented.

Facts About Suicide*

  • According to the WHO, an estimated 703,000 people die by suicide worldwide each year; in the United States, more than 40,000 people die by suicide annually, but more than a million attempt it.
  • The global suicide rate is over twice as high among men than women; in the US, men are four times more likely to die from suicide than women, but women are three times more likely to attempt suicide.
  • A death by suicide happens every 12 minutes in the US.
  • LGBTQ youth are three times more likely than heterosexual youth to attempt suicide.
  • While mental illness can play a key role, 54% of people who commit suicide did not have a known mental health condition.

Whether you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, here are some tips to follow for suicide prevention:

If You’re Having Suicidal Thoughts…

  • If you have overwhelming feelings of despair for more than two weeks, you may be suffering from depression. Seek help from a doctor or counselor; depression can be treated.
  • Avoid alcohol and other drugs; during a hard time, alcohol and drugs will not help and may even make things worse.
  • Remember that having suicidal thoughts is nothing to be ashamed of; it is something to get help for.
  • Even if you feel like you have no options other than suicide, seek help; with help, you can find solutions to problems that seem hopeless.
    • Talk to a friend, family member, counselor or religious leader.
    • Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-TALK).
    • Look online for your local community mental health center.
    • Visit a doctor who can recommend medications or counseling and can help you devise a safety plan.

If You’re Worried About Someone You Know…

  • Watch for warning signs such as: talking about suicide or making a plan; sleeping or eating too much or too little; giving away treasured belongs; withdrawing from friends and activities; showing extreme changes in personality or behavior; taking unnecessary risks; and increased drug or alcohol use
  • Don’t ignore social media posts that mention despair, self-harm, death or suicide; reach out to your friend.
  • Take it seriously; let them know you care.
  • Talk about your feelings and listen to their feelings without judgment.
  • Be direct. Ask if they are thinking of suicide and if they have a plan.
  • Encourage them to seek help.
  • If they have a suicide plan, do not leave them alone; seek immediate assistance from crisis intervention professionals. Remove guns or stockpiled pills.
  • Alert important people in your friend’s life, even if asked not to tell anyone; you could be saving a life.

Bottom line: if you or someone you know is considering suicide, get help. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

At ODU, enrolled students can seek assistance from the Office of Counseling Services (OCS) at 757-683-4401. OCS provides services including individual and group counseling, outreach programs and crisis intervention. OCS also holds various workshops throughout the year, including Suicide Prevention Training for students and faculty/staff.

*Thank you to ODU OCS for sharing the pamphlets “Suicide: 30 Facts Everyone Should Know” and “Suicide and Depression: What You Need to Know”, which provided much of the information for this blog post. Additional facts about suicide were gathered from an infographic created by the International Association for Suicide Prevention.

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