October 10 is World Mental Health Day. This year's focus is suicide prevention. Worldwide, suicide is the cause of 800,000 deaths annually. 

World Mental Health Day is organized by the World Federation for Mental Health. This year’s Day is supported by WHO, the International Association for Suicide Prevention, and United for Global Mental Health.

"Getting people to talk about a subject that tends to be taboo and about which many hold mistaken and prejudiced ideas will help the community to learn about the risk factors so that they can identify and learn to address them," says Dr. Alberto Trimboli, President of the World Federation for Mental Health in a statement for World Mental Health Day. 

Suicide is a serious public health issue

Every 40 seconds, someone loses their life to suicide. Research suggests that for every person who dies, 20 more attempt to end their life. In America, suicide accounts for twice as many deaths as homicides. In fact, suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34 in 2017 according to a report by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

Warning signs of suicide

The NIMH lists the following warning signs for suicide: 

  • Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves
  • Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live
  • Planning or looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online, stockpiling pills, or newly acquiring potentially lethal items (e.g., firearms, ropes)
  • Talking about great guilt or shame
  • Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions
  • Feeling unbearable pain, both physical or emotional
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Using alcohol or drugs more often
  • Acting anxious or agitated
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Changing eating and/or sleeping habits
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Taking risks that could lead to death, such as reckless driving
  • Talking or thinking about death often
  • Displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy
  • Giving away important possessions
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family
  • Putting affairs in order, making a will

Suicides are preventable. Visit the WHO page for suicide prevention to find more resources for you and your patients. 

Download an information sheet for providers from WHO.

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