National Suicide Prevention Month may be ending on September 30, but the need to support people experiencing a mental health crisis is more urgent than ever.
After a dip in 2019 and 2020, the suicide rate in the United States increased nearly 4 percent in 2021—47,646 deaths, up from 45,979 in 2020, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The rate for people age 15-24 rose 7 percent. Overall suicide rates have risen more than 30 percent in the past two decades.
Some good news: Seeking help became easier in 2020, with the introduction of the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. 988 has been designated as a new three-digit dialing code, similar to the simple-to-remember public safety hotline number 911.
The Lifeline provides free and confidential support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, seven days a week, across the United States. You can also connect to the Lifeline if you are concerned about a loved one, friend, or colleague.
988 calls go to into a nearby crisis center, one of 200 across the country. When people call or text 988, or connect to chat online, they will be connected to trained counselors that are part of the Lifeline network. Trained counselors listen, understand how the caller’s problems are affecting them, provide support, and connect them to resources if necessary.
NOTE: The previous Lifeline phone number (1-800-273-8255) will always remain available to people in emotional distress or suicidal crisis.
Ithaca’s 53-year-old Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service has long been part of the Lifeline network. Its trained counselors can also be reached by dialing 607-272-1616.
The Lifeline has been proven to be effective. According to its administrator, numerous studies have shown that callers feel less suicidal, less depressed, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful after speaking with a Lifeline counselor. Calls to the Lifeline have soared 45 percent since 988 was introduced in July.
The Lifeline is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and administered by Vibrant Emotional Health.
Warning Signs for Suicide
Take a moment to review the warning signs for suicide, as provided by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). Be sure to get help for yourself or others if you see the signs. You may save a life.
According to AFSP, something to look out for when concerned that a person may be suicidal is a change in behavior or the presence of entirely new behaviors. This is of sharpest concern if the new or changed behavior is related to a painful event, loss, or change. Most people who take their lives exhibit one or more warning signs, either through what they say or what they do.
Warning sign: Talk
If a person talks about:
Having no reason to live
Being a burden to others
Warning sign: Behavior
Behaviors that may signal risk, especially if related to a painful event, loss or change:
Increased use of alcohol or drugs
Looking for a way to end their lives, such as searching online for methods
Withdrawing from activities
Isolating from family and friends
Sleeping too much or too little
Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
Giving away prized possessions
Warning sign: Mood
People who are considering suicide often display one or more of the following moods:
Loss of interest
For more local, state, and national resources, visit The Sophie Fund’s suicide prevention page.