Awareness and Care Are Key Components of Suicide Prevention

October 5, 2022

Young adult girl looking sadly out the windowThe long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on mental health will be examined for many years to come. In 2020, the first year of the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the prevalence of anxiety and depression was about four times higher in adults in the United States compared to 2019.

Fortunately, the nation’s overall suicide rate fell 3% from 2019 to 2020. Though there was an increase in risk factors impacting Americans — particularly social isolation — the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention attributes the decline to increased awareness surrounding behavioral health issues and easier access to behavioral health services.

Through awareness and intervention methods, we can each play a role in helping to further declining suicide rates. Here’s how:

Recognize the Risk Factors

According to the CDC, there are a wide range of circumstances that can increase the risk of suicide.

Individual risk factors like the following can contribute to risk:

  • Previous suicide attempt
  • History of depression and other mental illnesses
  • Criminal/legal problems
  • Job/financial problems or loss
  • Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
  • Substance misuse
  • Current or prior history of adverse childhood experiences
  • Sense of hopelessness

The CDC also outlines relationship risk factors, such as bullying and social isolation, as well as community risk factors (including lack of access to healthcare) and, finally, societal risk factors, such as the stigma associated with seeking help for behavioral health issues.

Here's What to Watch for:

Identifying warning signs of someone struggling with suicidal thoughts can be lifesaving. Watch out for these behaviors:

  • Talking about being a burden
  • Being isolated
  • Increased anxiety
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Increased substance use
  • Looking for a way to access lethal means
  • Increased anger or rage
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Expressing hopelessness
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Talking or posting about wanting to die
  • Making plans for suicide

What Can You Do?

Suicidal thoughts can make you feel hopeless, but there are steps you can take to combat them, including things like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, to help you recognize thought patterns and consider alternative actions. Safety planning, which outlines coping strategies and sources of support when you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, can also help keep you safe.

However, if you need immediate help, or know someone who does, contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline if you are experiencing mental health-related distress or are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support.

South Texas Health System Behavioral Is Here to Help

For more than 30 years, our licensed and experienced clinical team has provided behavioral health services for people of all ages. The multidisciplinary team, comprised of board-certified psychiatrists, clinicians, registered nurses and support staff, are ready to help our patients develop the skills necessary to manage the symptoms of mental health and substance use disorders.