By Nicole Milton, Training Manager
“We don’t really talk about suicide and that’s a problem; staying silent about suicide creates confusion, promotes stigma, and isolates people when they need help the most.”
The quote by Dr. Ali Mattu, Professor of Medical Psychology at Columbia, gives a call to action as we enter Suicide Prevention Month. Suicide is a complex, multifactorial public health issue. It is the second leading cause of death for ages 10-34 in the state of Texas and according to the 2022 State of Mental Health Report by Mental Health America, 4.58% (~11 million people) of adults in the US reported having serious thoughts of suicide. From the Public Health perspective suicide is preventable by equipping the public with training and education about suicide and learning how to promote protective factors, understanding risk factors, and recognizing warning signs of suicide.
Protective Factors are characteristics that make it less likely that individuals will consider, attempt, or die by suicide. These include community and family connections, support for seeking help, effective mental health care, and lack of access to lethal means (firearms, weapons, prescription drugs).
Risk Factors are characteristics that make it more likely that individuals will consider, attempt, or die by suicide. The presence of risk factors is not indicative of possible suicide or suicidal ideation but help to understand which individuals may need additional support. Examples of risk factors include prior suicide attempts, experienced trauma (bullying, abuse), have a family history of suicide, experienced loss, or disruptions in an individual’s support system.
Warning Signs are indicators that an individual may be suicidal. If they are giving away possessions, using language (written or verbal) such as “ I wish I was dead” or “ Everyone would be better off without me”, seeking access to lethal means, increasing substance use/abuse, or experiencing sudden mood swings (depression, anxiety, loss of interest, shame).
I encourage everyone to get informed and do our part during Suicide Prevention month and every month to help save a life. If you or someone you know is dealing with suicidal ideation, please connect them to the following local or national resources:
- Suicide and Crisis Line: (988) a confidential text, dialing, and chat code for anyone experiencing a suicidal or mental health related crisis (feeling hopeless, overwhelmed by your thoughts, or that you may harm yourself)
- National Alliance on Mental Health Houston Warm Line: (713-970-448) a peer-run hotline that offers callers emotional support and is staffed by volunteers who are in recovery themselves.
- Mobile Crisis Outreach Team 24/7 Crisis Line: (713-970-7000) If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, please contact The Harris Center Crisis Line. Crisis Line Specialists will determine if a MCOT referral can benefit you.
If you are interested in training opportunities and resources about Suicide Prevention, please visit our website at https://mhahouston.org/training/health-literacy/.