September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

In honor of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month – or Yellow September – it is vital to cultivate open conversations about mental health in order to destigmatize sensitive topics such as self-harm and thoughts of taking one’s own life. While discussing suicide can be considered taboo, lack of honest and informed discussion contributes to the increase of suicide rates each year. By allowing space for communities to speak openly about these difficult experiences, it encourages other individuals who are struggling to seek help as well. Spreading awareness about the warning signs, risk factors, and protective factors can further aid in suicide prevention efforts.

Warning Signs

Knowing the warning signs that individuals often display when contemplating taking their own life helps to promote suicide prevention. Internally, people may notice their feelings worsen not only mentally but also physically. Physical symptoms can manifest as a result of emotional challenges, which can look like shortness of breath, general pain in the body, and heart palpitations as well as changes in appetite and sleep hygiene. Emotions of sadness, anger, and fear may intensify or become more difficult to manage. In addition, mood swings may occur.

Others may notice atypical behaviors such as increased irritability or aggression that lead to substance use or other risk-taking behaviors like driving too fast or recklessly. Cognitively, individuals may have difficulty with concentration and memory recall.

Other warning signs include expressing wanting to die, experiencing guilt and shame, losing interest in previously enjoyed activities or interests, and feeling like a burden. Individuals may also report feeling empty, fatigued, hopeless, trapped, and like there is no reason to continue living. It can be serious if people are making a plan or researching ways to harm themselves, withdrawing from friends, giving away possessions, creating a will, or engaging in other behaviors that signal a disconnect from planning for the future. Nevertheless, people are at the most risk when they seem to suddenly improve, feel relieved, and abruptly stop talking about suicidal ideation or depression symptoms; individuals are usually safer when they are vocalizing their experiences because it is a form of reaching out that communicates they want help. Most people want their pain to stop rather than actually wanting to die.

Risk Factors

Certain groups are more vulnerable to suicidal thoughts and ideation. For example, having a history of emotional or physical abuse such as experiencing domestic violence can be a risk factor for developing thoughts of self-harm and suicidality. If people have family members who have attempted suicide before or if the individual has access to lethal means, these factors can also heighten risk. Most people who experience suicidal ideation have depression, anxiety, psychosis, chemical dependency, or another mental health condition like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Patterns of aggression, mood changes, and unstable or unhealthy relationships may be correlated with increased risk of suicide. Traumatic brain injuries, consistent and prolonged stress, or difficult life events like unemployment, harassment, loss, and other life transitions can contribute to symptoms associated with suicide and self-harm as well. In areas where people are exposed to suicide, especially personally or in a way that is sensationalized, an uptick in suicide cases often occurs.

Other vulnerable groups are those who are marginalized or face discrimination in society. For example, people of color, tribal populations, and sexual and gender minorities have higher rates of suicide due to systemic oppression. Disparities also exist amongst veterans, middle-age adults, and those who live in rural areas. Lacking connection to community is a significant risk factor for anyone; therefore, one of the most protective components is cultivating a strong support system.

Protective Factors

Not only is community support one of the most imperative protective factors to preventing suicide, it also aids in developing healthy coping skills and problem solving abilities. Whether people develop a strong support system within their families, friends, or through another group that aligns with their values, connection is the antithesis to suicide and other risks. One simple way to prevent suicide is to limit access to lethal means in order to create a safe environment that discourages any self-harm triggers or impulsive action. Cultural and religious beliefs can also aid in encouraging people to seek connection and ask for help when they’re struggling in addition to creating a sense of purpose in one’s life. Lastly, adequate access to mental health care allows individuals to be proactive in taking care of their wellbeing and having resources readily available at the first sign of struggle.


If you are or someone you know is struggling with suicidal ideation, please reach out to a mental health professional or someone you trust who can support you in getting the help you need. Some resources available include 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline which is accessible through call and text. You can also chat online at You can also text “Hello” to 741741, a crisis text line or contact your local crisis line.

Shadow Work with the Shadow Self
Navigating Burnout