September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

Learn how you can help someone in crisis.

September 26, 2022

At Unity Center for Behavioral Health, we care for those experiencing a mental health crisis. When crises occur, Unity Center’s staff is here to help patients navigate their own mental health care with compassion, understanding and without judgement or stigma. We take anyone in crisis and provide immediate care.

September is Suicide Prevention Month

But we believe care is essential before the crisis comes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 45,979 died of suicide in the United States. That’s one death every 11 minutes. In addition, 12.2 million adults reported serious thoughts of suicide – or suicidal ideation – in 2020, while 3.2 million made a plan to take their own life, and 1.2 million adults attempted suicide.

In Oregon, 833 people of all ages died of suicide in 2020, while 1,212 died of suicide in Washington state. And according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, suicide is the third leading cause of death among adolescents.

Suicide rates also vary by race and ethnicity, with the highest rates seen among those who identify as non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaska Natives, followed by those who identify as White, and third highest with those who identify as non-Hispanic native Hawaiian or of other Pacific Islander ethnicity or race, according to the CDC. Rates are also higher among those who identify as LGBTQIA+.

Research shows that about 90% of those who die by suicide experience mental illness, oftentimes undiagnosed or untreated.

“Suicide is preventable,” said Ron Lagergren, LCSW, Director of Clinical Operations at Unity Center. “We have many effective treatments available to those experiencing suicidal thoughts. I think people often avoid talking about suicide because of stigma. This is something we need to change and bring the conversation out in the open.”

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, so we’d like to take a moment to offer some tips and resources on how you can help those who may be struggling. Read on to learn how you can identify and help those around you.

What are the signs of suicidal ideation?
It’s not always easy to identify when someone is struggling. Here are a few signs to watch for:

  • New or increased substance use, including drugs or alcohol.
  • Withdrawal from social or day-to-day activities.
  • Expressing a preoccupation with death in conversations, writing, or other forms of communication.
  • Reckless or impulsive behavior.
  • Threatening suicide – listen for concerning phrases that express a disinterest in continuing to live.
  • Rage or aggressive behavior.
  • Mood swings that indicate instability.
  • Expressions of guilt, shame, or being a burden to others.
  • Intense emotional or physical pain.
  • A plan for suicide – researching ways to die.
  • Big changes in sleep or eating habits.
  • Giving away items, saying goodbye to loved ones, distressing posts on social media.

What can possibly trigger suicidal ideation or action?

  • Undiagnosed or untreated mental illness
  • Substance use or intoxication
  • Access to firearms or other dangerous items
  • A history of trauma
  • Isolation
  • Recent tragedy or loss

How can I help someone who’s struggling?

  • Listen with empathy and without judgement.
  • Don’t place guilt or blame – offer compassionate reassurance.
  • Avoid downplaying their feelings. Avoid phrases like “You’ll snap out of it,” or “Cheer up.”
  • Keep risk factors in mind. For example, if they struggle with alcohol, don’t encourage them to talk it through over a drink. Talk in a neutral, safe space and avoid triggers.
  • Look for items in the home or nearby that someone could use to harm themselves with. According to the CDC, firearms are the used in more than 50% of suicides, followed by suffocation or poisoning.
  • Reach out to resources for more help or if you feel there is an emergency, such as calling 9-8-8, the national Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

Need immediate help? Call 9-8-8. You can also come to Unity Center—we are here to help. Appointments are not necessary – anyone can walk in and receive immediate care. Our Psychiatric Emergency Services are open 24/7.

– Elizabeth Baker,