Ways to raise awareness during National Suicide Prevention Week

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry
Updated February 16, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include suicide which could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is having suicidal thoughts, contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988. Free, support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

September is recognized as National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Within that month, National Suicide Prevention Week is observed the week after Labor Day. In 2023, it will occur from Sunday, September 10 to Saturday, September 16. In addition, World Suicide Prevention Day takes place on September 10. Much like Mental Health Awareness Month, the aim of these observances is to help raise public awareness for mental health issues share resources, and be an encouraging light for community participants to band together to support each other in order to decrease rates of suicide in the US and around the world.

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What is National Suicide Prevention Week? 

National Suicide Prevention Week is an extension of National Suicide Prevention Day, organized by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO). This week is dedicated to the sharing of statistics and resources in order to raise awareness of suicide rates worldwide—as well as of the resources that exist to offer support and save lives. 

The 988 Lifeline, one of the many organizations that contribute to these efforts, recommends using the hashtag #BeThe1To during this week to encourage informed action for preventing suicide by lethal means. They state that they’re “working to change the conversation from suicide to suicide prevention, to actions that can promote healing, help and give hope”.

How to take supportive action for mental health in your community

There are a few ways you might encourage your community and others in your life to take action for National Suicide Prevention Week, including the following. 

Organize a local event 

Many special events take place during September around the world for suicide remembrance and prevention. You might band together with a local organization or your workplace, for example, to start your own event, which you can then register to spread the word. People may organize events such as:

  • A race or march
  • A cycling event
  • A triathlon 
  • A community speech by someone affected by suicide or awareness conference featuring survivors
  • A family-friendly fair or local market
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Join an official event during National Suicide Prevention Month

If you’re not interested in or able to start your own event, you may choose to participate in an official event. You can check the International Association for Suicide Prevention’s event page for ideas. One example is their well-known Cycle the Globe event. In 2023, they completed their tenth year. Check back with the IASP closer to September to learn more about the event in 2024. 

Talk about suicide statistics

Talking about suicide and suicidal ideation can be difficult, but it’s likely necessary to help reduce mental health stigma. The World Health Organization reports that more than 700,000 people globally die from suicide each year. They also share that a prior suicide attempt is one of the most common risk factors in suicide completion. That’s why creating an open dialogue about this issue, checking in on a loved one, and making an effort to educate everyone on the availability of resources for those facing mental health challenges can make a difference. 

There are also statistics that can be shared as a hopeful message, such as the following: 

  • There was a 3.4% decrease in suicide rates from 2019 to 2020, and 50% of Americans experiencing an episode of major depression received treatment for it that year.
  • The 988 crisis number has now been federally recognized, meaning that crisis support is now more widely available.
  • The lowest rates of suicide in 2020 were in California, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, which are all states that have implemented suicide prevention laws. 
Although suicide is still a leading cause of death, suicide prevention efforts can make a real impact. Sharing personal stories and statistics and otherwise speaking openly about mental health can be helpful during this week and year-round.

Check in on your loved ones

Another way to make a positive impact on your community year-round is to check in on friends and family about how they’re doing. Letting them know that you’re there for them can make a significant difference if they’re facing mental health challenges, and you can also help connect them to any resources they may need. You might also advocate for friends and family to take a free mental health screening if they have concerns. Mental Health America offers several for depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other common mental health conditions. You can then encourage them to reach out for help if they receive a positive result on a screening. 

If you’re a caregiver, medical provider, or therapist, you might also benefit from using the four brief screening questions from the Ask Suicide-Screening Questions (ASQ) toolkit by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) when screening your clients for suicide risk. 

Wear the colors 

The National Suicide Prevention Week colors are orange and yellow together on one ribbon. These colors represent the colors of the flame of a candle in an effort to signify both remembrances of those lost to suicide as well as the light of hope for those that communities can work together to safeguard. During September, you might consider wearing yellow and orange clothing or accessories to represent your support. If someone asks you about the importance of your color choices, you can tell them about suicide loss prevention efforts, suicide warning signs, and how they can participate too. 

Support a suicide-prevention non-profit

There are many nonprofits and community organizations out there working to expand mental health services and resources, promote suicide awareness., and save lives. You can check with your favorite organizations to see if they are looking for volunteers or accepting donations. If you’re able to offer your time and/or money, you can do so during this month and year-round.

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Counseling and support options

A key element of suicide prevention awareness is spreading the word about the fact that resources are available for those who are facing mental health challenges. Speaking with a mental health professional is one way to get help for such challenges. A therapist, for instance, can offer nonjudgmental, compassionate support and caring conversations and work with you to develop healthy perspectives, coping mechanisms, and a sense of hope. 

If you face barriers to in-person treatment, such as cost or a lack of transportation, you might consider virtual therapy options instead. Online therapy is often both more cost-effective and flexible. For example, research shows that over 71% of participants found online therapy to be more effective and preferable to in-person sessions, confirming it as a “viable alternative” to traditional sessions. If you’re interested in trying out this type of care, you might consider a virtual therapy platform like BetterHelp. You can get matched with a licensed therapist whom you can meet with via phone, video call, and/or in-app messaging to address the challenges you may be facing together.

Takeaway

National Suicide Prevention Week is primarily about raising awareness about suicide statistics and available resources that can help those who are experiencing mental health challenges. There are many ways you can get involved in your community to support these efforts, as detailed above. If you are struggling or feel like your life is on a downward pointing arrow and you’re interested in receiving support yourself, you can reach out to a behavioral health counselor.

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