By Nicholas Conley | September 10, 2018 | 3 Minute Read
Everyone knows it’s real and everyone knows that it happens. Sadly, today’s strongest efforts at suicide prevention awareness are still fighting back against centuries of cultural stigmatization, causing countless individuals to feel unable to seek help until it’s too late. The national suicide rate has increased significantly since 1999, with an especially deep impact on the LGBTQ+ community. Unfortunately, this has had a particularly deep impact among transgender individuals, nearly half of whom report having attempted suicide.
The first way to combat the suicide epidemic is through increased awareness, knowledge, and understanding. That’s why September is recognized as National Suicide Prevention Month.
The Statistical Reality
The causes are easy to speculate on, but the solution is more complex. Suicidal individuals, particularly those from the LGBTQ+ community, frequently experience prejudice and/or judgment when they open up or seek help—creating a dangerous isolating effect. Homophobia is still widespread, whether in government policies or within families and the preconceived notions that society has about suicide victims are equally judgmental. It’s difficult for a person to open up about experiencing suicidal thoughts, even to loved ones, without them being shut down, shunned, or mocked. Very few people know the correct way to help someone contemplating suicide.
Suicide has become a global health epidemic, and the numbers speak for themselves. In 2018, the CDC published a study showing that between 1999 and 2016, suicide rates skyrocketed across almost every U.S. state. New England was no exception, with Massachusetts rates climbing by over 35 percent and New Hampshire suicides rising by almost 50 percent. To put these numbers into perspective, 2016 saw over 45,000 lives lost to suicide. A 2014 study cited by the Williams Institute speculated that while about 4.6 percent of the overall U.S. population has attempted to commit suicide, those numbers rise to 10-20 percent for lesbian, gay, or bisexual adults, while a shocking 41 percent of transgender individuals surveyed said they’d attempted suicide at least once.
National Suicide Prevention Month
Since 1975, the second week of September has been dedicated as “National Suicide Prevention Week,” according to Digital Journal. Corresponding with this week is World Suicide Prevention Day, which has been held on September 10th since 2003. Because neither a week nor a day is enough when there are still millions of potential suicide victims out there needing help. Organizations such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline have come to recognize the entire month of September as National Suicide Prevention Month.
In Massachusetts, many local suicide prevention organizations are using this month to increase awareness, to raise funds, and to educate the public on how they can help. For example, the greater Boston chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is holding walks and bike rides throughout the month, in locations ranging from downtown Boston and Lowell to Tewksbury. AFSP will also run programs such as “Talk Saves Lives,” a presentation designed to help friends and family members recognize the signs of suicidal behavior, and know how to properly respond.
All throughout September, hospitals in both Worcester and Tewksbury will offer a course titled “QPR Suicide Prevention Training.” Attendees will learn the basics of QPR: Question, Persuade, and Refer—three basic steps to help a person who is considering suicide. Finally, September 29th will mark the 20th annual Samaritans 5k Walk/Run For Suicide Prevention, which begins at Artesani Park. This run is sponsored by Samaritans of Boston, a nonprofit organization dedicated to suicide prevention.
The Problem Is Real, and We Have to Work on it
When it comes to suicide prevention, Boston and the rest of New England need to do a lot more, and September is the month to start making a difference. Death rate increases of over 30 percent are unacceptable, and no matter what else is going on in the world, this is a genuine public crisis that needs proper addressing. Remember, your own loved ones could be experiencing suicidal thoughts, and if you don’t know the signs, you might never realize until it’s too late. Learn the basics, take a QPR course, and talk to people. It’s time to stop sitting by the sidelines of this worldwide epidemic and take action.
If you or anyone you know, whether a family member, friend, or coworker, is having suicidal feelings, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).