We would like nothing more than to publish a hopeful, helpful, uplifting blog on the subject of suicide prevention. But is this a subject we can feel hopeful about? How can we help to prevent suicide? Surely the answer has to be found in communication, empathy, and sincere care.
September 10th is designated “World Suicide Prevention Day” by the World Health Organization (WHO). We know that with regard to suicides per year, the number is high. The WHO tells us that currently there are more than 700,000 suicides per year worldwide, and we know that each suicide profoundly affects many more people.
The organization set a theme for the day: “Creating Hope Through Action is the triennial theme for the World Suicide Prevention Day from 2021-2023. This theme serves as a powerful call to action and reminder that there is an alternative to suicide and that through our actions we can encourage hope and strengthen prevention.”
The purpose is presented: “The 10 September each year aims to focus attention on the issue, reduces stigma and raises awareness among organizations, governments, and the public, giving a singular message that suicides are preventable. By encouraging understanding, reaching in and sharing experiences, we want to give people the confidence to take action. To prevent suicide requires us to become a beacon of light to those in pain.”
Surely every one of us wants to be that beacon of light.
Data shows that higher rates of suicide can be found among military veterans after discharge, with veterans 1.5 times more likely to die of suicide, and female veterans 2.2 times more likely. Data also shows higher suicide rates among American Indian and Alaska Native people, followed by Black and Hispanic people. In the years following the pandemic, suicide among Black people increased by 19.2% and Hispanic people 6.8%.
Something significant to note and remember is that in 2022 the government introduced a new crisis number – 988 – for callers who are suicidal or experiencing a mental health emergency. The call goes to a crisis counselor at a local crisis call center.
How to Help
The WHO didn’t offer recommendations on how to help but we found a list at the CDC of actions that friends, families and employers can learn from. They call it “Strategies to Prevent Suicide.”
The first set of strategies makes absolute sense: 1) Strengthen economic supports, 2) Improve household financial security and 3) Stabilize housing. For so many people financial insecurity and fears can lead to giving up hope. These fears can be at the root of suicidal thoughts.
The next set of recommendations makes sense too, for families, friends, employers and communities: 1) Create protective environments, 2) Reduce access to lethal means among persons at risk of suicide, 3) Create healthy organizational policies and culture, 4) Reduce substance use through community-based policies and practices.
These next recommendations apply to the medical establishment, communities and employers: 1) Improve access and delivery of suicide care, 2) Cover mental health conditions in health insurance policies, 3) Increase provider availability in underserved areas, 4) Provide rapid and remote access to help, 5) Create safer suicide care through systems change.
There are seven sets of strategies, and we won’t outline all of the recommendations here. Readers can visit the CDC for the full article. We would like to list a few more that touch us: 1) Teach coping and problem-solving skills, 2) Teach parenting skills to improve family relationships, 3) Identify and support people at risk, 4) Provide therapeutic approaches.
We understand that possibly the isolation of the lockdown increased desperation and thus suicides. That experience certainly was traumatic and led to loneliness, economic distress and fear. As a result of what we have been through, it seems vital to focus on communication and some of the other recommendations that just make sense.
Help from AMS
At AMS we do all we can to help employees who are either suffering themselves, or have a family member who is in need. We seek to create a supportive environment, with healthy organizational policies and culture, we train supervisors for mental health awareness, and we provide access to help through our Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
Through the EAP, offered free to employees and their households, help is available. AMS employees have access to EAP licensed mental health professionals 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and this includes eligible dependents. The EAP also provides financial tools and resources, help with work/life balance, help with substance use and other addictions, and help with dependent and elder care resources.
We want nothing more than to help prevent suicide by learning the warning signs, offering help, and listening and caring. As said in the beginning, surely the answer to prevention can be found in communication, empathy, and sincere care. Employees are encouraged to contact HR for more information on EAP. We care.