September is National Suicide Prevention Month.
Local mental health workers, suicide survivors, allies, community members, and prevention organizations work to promote suicide prevention awareness all year — soemtimes with little notice or recognition — but September is the month that their efforts get highlighted.
John Gossett, president and one of the founders of the Life’s Worth Living Foundation, a local suicide prevention and awareness organization, said September — as summer winds down and school starts up — is a good month to remind people to check in on their family and friends for warning signs of suicide.
“During National Suicide Prevention Month, everyone kind of focuses in on what we can be doing to solve the problem and fix the problem of suicide,” Gossett. .
It is important to remember that people in each age category, whether young or old, are at risk for suicide, according to Gossett.
Children are at risk for suicide when they experience trauma, which could include death of a family member, abuse, or bullying.
Teenagers are at risk for the same things children are, along with drug and alcohol use, expulsion from school, and humiliation.
“Humiliation in teens could be basically like a girl sends inappropriate pictures to her boyfriend and he shows them to the whole school,” said Gossett. “We see this a lot.”
Adults are at risk when they separate or divorce from a partner, experience trauma, abuse alcohol, lose a job, or a child of a family member dies.
Out of the whole adult population, middle-aged men have the highest risk for suicide, according to Gossett.
“The reason middle-aged men are at such a high risk for suicide is there is so much pressure,” he explained. “There is pressure to take care of a family, financial problems, and trying to keep a roof over their family’s heads.”
Older adults, or senior citizens, are also lost to suicide at a high rate.
“The reason we see a lot of senior suicides is because a lot of them have experienced the death of a spouse,” Gossett said. “They also can’t do as much anymore and they end up feeling like a burden. Sometimes they don’t interact with their kids anymore, because they have grown up and moved away.”
People in marginalized groups are also at risk for suicide, according to Gossett.
LGBTQ+ children and teens die at three to four times the rate of others in their age group.
“Out of three households that have children who are LGBT, there is only one out of the three that are accepting and loving,” said Gossett. “If you have a family that can bet behind an LGBT youth, that decreases the rate of suicide dramatically. If they have a child that comes out, parents should love them unconditionally to reduce that risk.”
Transgender youth die at rate 30 to 40 times higher than others in their age group.
Other marginalized groups that are at risk for suicide include the Native American population and those with chronic illness or disease, according to Gossett.
Those who suspect their family members and friends are struggling should talk with them.
“Pay attention to others,” said Gossett. “If you think someone may be struggling, reach out to them. I have a fool proof way to ask the question to see if they are thinking about suicide. You can say, ‘Hey so and so, sometimes when people experience [trauma, death of a loved one, divorce, bullying etc.] in their lives, they start to think about suicide. Are you thinking about suicide?’ If the answer is yes, ask them if they have a plan and then call the suicide prevention lifeline or go to the emergency room.”
“Don’t try to fix their problems, because a lot of the time when they are talking about what they are experiencing, they are fixing their own problems,” Gossett continued. “Listen without judgement and speak without judgement. If you jumble up the letters in the word ‘listen’, it spells ‘silent.’”
Those struggling can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 24 hours a day. Veterans in crisis can call 800-942-3414.
Children and teens can also download the “Safe UT” app from the app store.
“My challenge for everyone this month is to be watching everyone around you,” Gossett said. “Pay more attention to them than you pay attention to yourself.”