According to the most recent statistics from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), there are approximately 130 suicides daily in the U.S. White males have the highest risk rate in our country, comprising about 70 percent of all suicides as of 2020. Additionally, more than 800,000 people throughout the world take their lives each year—and again, the rate is about twice as high for men of all cultures than for women.
What Is World Suicide Prevention Day?
The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) indicates that “for every suicide, there are many more [individuals] who attempt suicide or have serious suicidal ideation.” The loss of life is one tragedy—unfortunately, suicides have an extreme ripple effect among surviving family members and friends, creating even more residual trauma.
A suicide can affect coworkers, church members, and schoolteachers and students, among others. According to a study shared by the National Alliance on Mental Health, it’s estimated that “115 people are exposed to a single suicide, with one in five reporting that this experience had a devastating impact or caused a major-life disruption.”
So in 2003, IASP launched World Suicide Prevention Day as a joint initiative with the World Health Organization. This advocacy effort on September 10 of each year is dedicated to not only raising awareness about suicide, but also reducing its stigma to help prevent it. The day is now observed in more than 60 countries, often marked by news conferences, special events, and the “Light a Candle” campaign: people light a candle by a window at 8 p.m. that day “to show support for suicide prevention, to remember a lost loved one, and for the survivors of suicide.”
Sobering Suicide Statistics
Why does this major global suicide awareness effort matter? Here are additional U.S. statistics from AFSP, which we provide verbatim:
- Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death.
- The rate of suicide is highest in middle-aged white men.
- As of 2020, firearms accounted for 52.83 percent of all suicide deaths.
- As of 2020, there were an estimated 1.2 million suicide attempts.
In Georgia, according to AFSP data reported in early 2022, four times as many people died from suicide in the state than motor vehicle accidents. It’s also the third leading cause of death for residents 10–24 and 25–34. Additionally, 49 percent of all firearm deaths were suicides. Georgia also has few to no laws or initiatives requiring:
- K–12 suicide prevention education and intervention
- Regular or even one-time required suicide assessment training for medical and mental health professionals
- Awareness and intervention policies for university and college students
- The ban of conversion therapy techniques
Without a network of support, both personal and professional, it’s all too easy for someone to think taking their life is the only option.
Reasons for Suicidal Thoughts
Unfortunately, there’s not one clear-cut cause for suicide. Mental health experts think there are often many aspects that contribute to growing despair and frustration, and perhaps a feeling of being trapped and not seeing a way out of an overwhelming situation.
That said, AFSP highlights depression and substance use as major risk factors, as well as anxiety. Also saddening: researchers believe a family history of suicide may be linked to individuals who have suicidal thoughts or continued contemplation.
Turbulent life issues can also compromise our resilience. For example, someone experiencing bullying or harassment, chronic pain, financial trouble, PTSD or trauma, substance abuse, relationship problems and divorce, traumatic brain injury, or unemployment may find themselves struggling with suicidal thoughts. Adverse childhood experiences might contribute to current trauma as well.
Know How to Spot the Warning Signs in Yourself and Loved Ones
World Suicide Prevention Day helps people understand what to look for in themselves and others, and be assured they have resources to turn to in the event of an emergency.
SAVE—the Suicide Awareness Voices of Education organization—states these warning signs (which we provide verbatim) mean you or someone you care for needs immediate assistance:
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
- Looking for a way to kill oneself
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
- Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
Connection and support are two primary suicide prevention factors. Here’s how to get help.
Finding the Resources You Need
As part of the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, there’s now a three-digit emergency lifeline of 988 available in all 50 states. When someone calls, they have an immediate connection to trained counselors, intervention resources, and other assistance.
If you or someone you know needs help today, it’s available 24/7 for free through these services:
- Call 988 from any phone for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- Text “HELLO” to the Crisis Text Line at 741741
- To reach the Veterans Crisis Line, enter 988, then press 1, or use the chat function. This is available to all current and former military members and their families, even if you’re stationed overseas or don’t have VA benefits
When you call 988 or reach out on the Crisis Text Line, here’s what to expect. Additionally, get help on the AFSP site if you’re having suicidal thoughts, have survived an attempt, if you’re worried about someone, or experienced another person’s death by suicide.
Additional Care from Willingway
If you or a loved one has suicidal thoughts, please use the lifelines above for immediate attention. If you’re unsure of how to form more meaningful connections and are struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, our free continuing care communities groups through Georgia and the Southeast provide access to valuable resources.