Be the Change: How to Support Suicide Prevention Efforts This September

August 18, 2023

News Type:  Director's Corner, Weekly Spark
Author:  Jonathan B. Singer, PhD, LCSW; Professor of Social Work; Loyola University Chicago, School of Social Work; Member, SPRC Steering Committee

As we approach Suicide Prevention Month, share the information below with your communities to help them know what to expect—and more importantly, how to get involved.

September is Suicide Prevention Month! In the U.S., World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10) is surrounded by National Suicide Prevention Week (September 10-16). All month, the internet will be full of information about preventing suicide. You’ll likely see a lot of teal and purple, which are the official colors of suicide prevention. 

Throughout September, prevention practitioners, advocates, and allies will promote a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention. People who have experienced suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts or lost loved ones to suicide may share their perspectives. Clinicians and other experts will likely give webinars on suicide interventions. Prevention organizations may host roundtables to discuss legislative efforts, policies, and the in-development 2024 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention

These posts, webinars, and roundtables partly serve to raise awareness about suicide and who is affected by it. You’ll also see a lot of statistics to that end. For example, during the month of September, approximately 1.3 million people in the U.S. will have suicidal thoughts, 142,000 will attempt suicide, and 4,000 will die by suicide. You’ll likely hear more numbers and stories showing how suicide affects everyone but that some groups are more impacted than others. 

In addition to raising awareness, these efforts aim to inspire action. For decades, the mainstream suicide prevention field focused on preventing suicide in health care settings, like doctor’s offices and hospitals. Now, there’s an understanding that suicide prevention can and should happen everywhere that people live, work, and play, in addition to the places they receive care. To address the many factors that affect suicide, including disparities in access to resources and support, it will take all of us working together.

This understanding has extended beyond the suicide prevention field to the general public, resulting in a growing realization that all of society can play a role in preventing suicide. And we know more and more about what works. Strategies like reducing access to lethal means, such as firearms; identifying and assisting those at risk; and promoting connectedness have shown effectiveness in reducing suicide rates. 

But where can you get started? Here’s a quick list of things to do this September, including the following:

  • Educate Yourself: Learn the warning signs of suicide and how to help someone in distress. Knowledge truly is power.
  • Reach Out: If you know someone struggling, be there for them and offer a listening ear. Sometimes, just knowing someone cares can make all the difference.
  • Share Resources: Spread the word about the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and other supports. Sharing information on social media or within your community can direct people to the help they need.
  • Promote Compassion: Foster empathy and understanding in your home, work, and community. Judgment-free spaces enable those struggling to seek help without fear of stigma.
  • Support Initiatives: Volunteer with mental health organizations, participate in local events, or even donate if you’re able. Your time and contributions can aid in saving lives.

This Suicide Prevention Month, let’s pledge to do more. Whether it’s educating ourselves, reaching out to a friend, or supporting wider initiatives, every action counts. Together, we can build a world worth living in and work tirelessly to protect it.

Jonathan B. Singer, PhD, LCSW

Professor of Social Work

Loyola University Chicago, School of Social Work

Coauthor, Suicide in Schools: A Practitioner’s Guide to Multilevel Prevention, Assessment, Intervention, and Postvention

Member, SPRC Steering Committee