5 Ways To…Bring Awareness During National Suicide Prevention Month
Know how to help those who are suffering with these actionable items from a local expert at the American Foundation for Suicide.
This time of year marks the start of sweater weather, but it is also when we bring awareness to an important cause: September is National Suicide Prevention Month. It’s when mental health advocates, prevention organizations, survivors and community members unite to promote suicide prevention awareness. So, BERGEN spoke to Elizabeth Clemens, New Jersey area director of American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), based in Hoboken, to offer up five things to know about the prevalence of suicide in our state and what you can do right now to help.
- Look for the signs. Clemens points to three “warning signs” that people should look out for in their loved ones to determine whether or not they should seek help: if they TALK about ending their life or being a burden, BEHAVE differently in that they’re being reckless or using drugs or alcohol, or if their MOOD has changed drastically. “We all have ups and downs in our mood, but when you notice a change that is uncharacteristic or concerning, that’s when it’s important to speak to the person,” she says.
- Know the stats—and the proper language. On average, one person died by suicide every 11 hours in New Jersey in 2018, according to AFSP research. (It takes about two years for this data to be processed, so we don’t yet know the stats during the pandemic.) Suicide is also the 13th leading cause of death in the state and the second leading cause of death for those ages 10–34. Clemens also stresses that not only should we realize the prevalence of suicide, but we should refrain from using the phrase “committed suicide,” which seems to criminalize the act, and instead say “died by suicide.” “It’s important to educate ourselves on how to talk about suicide,” she adds.
- Explore your options. In the age of COVID, there are many ways to get yourself or a loved one help, whether you or they prefer to speak to a therapist in-person or are OK with telehealth appointments. “You may have to try a few different things and a few different therapists before you find the right one who works for you and is complementary to your style,” Clemens says. Not sure where to begin? Ask your general practitioner for guidance, or take advantage of local resources like these health hotlines in Bergen County.
- Fight the stigma. Experts say the best way to fight the stigma around suicide and mental health in general is simple: talk about it. “We know from research that talking about suicide isn’t going to cause an individual to end their life,” Clemens says. This means facilitating an open dialogue in which you demonstrate compassion, practice self-care by exercising or reach out to those who may be isolated and in need of support.
- Do your part. You don’t have to be a mental health professional or healthcare worker to help those who are suffering. Clemens urges people to get involved however they please, “whether that’s learning the warning signs for suicide, advocating for suicide prevention legislation or bringing education programs to your community,” she says. One way to get started is via the organization’s annual New Jersey Out of the Darkness Experience—virtually via Zoom this year—which will take place on Nov. 1 at 10 a.m. to raise both money and awareness for the cause.
**If you or a loved one is having suicidal thoughts and/or is in a crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 800.273.8255 or text TALK to 741741. More resources are available at afsp.org.**