Suicide Prevention Week: 18 Ways To Take Action (2023)

Abstract representation of mental health, with shapes and lines inside of a "brain"

National Suicide Prevention Week is honored for one full week in September every year — with this year’s event taking place from September 10 through September 16. 

This important awareness week has been recognized for more than a decade — as mental health activists and practitioners across the country work to reduce the prevalence of suicide and provide support to those who struggle.

With events, screenings, activities, and more, Suicide Prevention Week serves as a catalyst for us to learn more, seek help, offer support, and open our hearts and minds to vulnerable conversations.

Suicide Prevention Week takes place within Suicide Prevention Month. Suicide Prevention Day is also honored on September 10, during Suicide Prevention Week. 

We’ve collected ideas for action steps on how each of us can use this annual event as an opportunity to educate ourselves, support the people in our lives, and take action to reduce suicide rates on a massive scale.

Scroll through our guide and find a few action steps you can take — and then share this guide with others so they can join in as well.

Please know that asking for help is a sign of strength — not weakness. If you’re in a crisis, please dial 988 to reach the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. If you’re looking for professional help or looking for specific support, we encourage you to use Good Good Good’s Mental Health Resources Guide. You can also text HOME to 741-741 to instantly connect with a trained crisis counselor, 24/7, for free.

Activities To Honor & Celebrate Suicide Prevention Week —

Learn

Learn the warning signs of suicide.

Suicide is a deeply complex and personal issue, and it’s important to remember that not everyone who has a mental health condition or experiences risk factors contemplates or plans suicide. Nevertheless, it is vital to know the warning signs that someone might be at immediate risk for a suicide attempt.

Thanks to the National Institute of Mental Health for this helpful information— check out the organization’s suicide prevention guide for more helpful resources. 

  • Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill oneself
  • Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or that one has no solutions
  • Feeling unbearable emotional or physical pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Giving away important possessions
  • Saying goodbye to family and friends
  • Putting affairs in order, such as making a will or arranging home and financial logistics
  • Taking great risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast or using drugs and alcohol more often
  • Displaying extreme mood swings
  • Making a plan or looking for ways to acquire lethal weapons, stockpiling pills, or purchasing a gun
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge

Learn the facts about suicide.

The statistics about suicide are very overwhelming and disheartening, but they help us get a better picture of the issue at hand. Here’s what you need to know:

  • In 2020, suicide was the twelfth leading cause of death overall in the U.S., claiming the lives of over 45,900 people.
  • Rates of suicide are highest among male Native Americans, at 37.4% per 100,000 according to the CDC in 2020. 
  • The use of firearms is the number one method of suicide, followed by suffocating and poisoning. For 57.9% of males and 33% of females, firearms are the chosen method, while 7.8% of males and 28.6% of females select poisoning.
  • In 2020, the prevalence of serious suicidal thoughts was highest among young adults aged 18-25 at 11.3%
  • LGBTQ youth are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers.
  • Between 2007 and 2018 the suicide rate among those age 10 to 24 increased nearly 60%, according to the CDC.
  • Suicide is the number one cause of gun deaths in the U.S., factoring at 60.3% of the number of gun deaths by intent in 2019.

Learn the correct terminology.

In order to break through and have difficult, life-saving conversations, we need to know what language to use. Here are a few helpful words to add to your vocabulary and help you dive a bit deeper into suicide prevention work. Again, these insights are from the National Institute of Mental Health. You can check out the organization’s suicide prevention guide for additional information and resources. 

  • Suicide: when people harm themselves with the goal of ending their life, and they die as a result. 
  • Suicide attempt: a non-fatal, self-directed, potentially injurious behavior with intent to die as a result of the behavior. A suicide attempt might not result in injury. (Experts suggest avoiding terms like “failed suicide” or “successful suicide,” which perpetuate negative stigmas.)
  • Suicidal ideation: refers to thinking about, considering, or planning suicide. 

Another helpful language tip is to use the phrase “died by suicide,” instead of “committed suicide” when talking about someone who lost their life. Suicide is not a crime that one commits, but rather a complex outcome of illness and risk factors. 

Learn about effective ways to reduce suicide.

Suicide is a culmination of a number of nuanced factors, and preventing suicide includes loads of different people and institutions. From psychologists, clinicians, social workers, and public health experts, to first responders, policymakers, community members, and law enforcement — suicide prevention starts with basic science.

Diverse expertise and widespread education efforts are necessary to prioritize funding and resources for suicide prevention. Experts are advocating for greater funding for research to do their jobs and create effective policies for combatting suicide

One of the key ways to reduce suicide is to enact stricter gun laws. By making guns more difficult to acquire, or by putting more time between gun licensing and purchasing, or simply by improving gun safety practices, firearm suicide will become less pervasive. 

Additionally, suicide prevention efforts can be greatly supported by more accessible healthcare, allowing people to access help for their mental health as a preventative measure, rather than a reactionary one.

Developing mobile crisis services, peer crisis services, and crisis warmlines can also support people in crisis. This is often presented as an alternative to law enforcement intervention, removing the threat of institutionalization and allowing people to have agency over their suicide prevention care. 

Another deeply important suicide prevention measure is by creating a world that is safer and more accepting of LGBTQ+ youth, who are highly at risk of suicide, due to social isolation, conversion therapy, and stress.

Though these are certainly not the only ways to reduce suicide, and we could spend hours writing about and researching each of these topics, these are a great starting point to learn more about suicide prevention in an intersectional and intentional way. 

“The field of psychology is unique in our ability to move science from the lab to providers’ offices, and even into legislative efforts,” Mitch Prinstein, Ph.D. shared with the American Psychological Association. “Psychology can make an enormous difference by working together across science, practice, and policy. Together, our work can truly save lives.” 

Learn how to ask hard questions.

While most of us assume that asking a loved one about suicidality can increase suicidal tendencies, several studies have found that questions about suicide do not increase potential suicidality.

In fact, doing so could actually save a life.

Becka Ross, LCSW, is the Chief Program Officer at Crisis Text Line — and wrote a helpful article for Good Good Good about why and how to ask about suicide.

Learn how to help someone struggling with suicide.

If someone shares their suicidal thoughts with you, you may feel a lot of pressure to respond “correctly”, but first and foremost remember: the fact that they shared this with you is a positive thing, and you now have the opportunity to help.

We put together a guide so you can preemptively learn how to provide support if the opportunity arises in the future.

Read quotes about suicide prevention.

Sometimes you just need to hear (or share) the right words. We collected some of the best quotes about suicide (and more mental health quotes) that speak to the ideas of hope, story, and strength.

Take Action

Make a donation.

Donating directly to organizations helping to prevent suicide allows them to continue doing their work all year long. 

We recommend the following nonprofit organizations:

Volunteer at a crisis hotline (or text line).

It’s incredibly valuable and important for people to have somewhere safe and accessible to turn to when they’re experiencing a crisis. Fortunately, thousands of volunteers continually and eagerly show up to provide support.

Crisis centers offer training and support to help empathetic volunteers get started helping people. Many volunteer positions can be done remotely at times convenient for you.

Here’s a brief list of volunteer opportunities available to folks who aren’t mental health professionals:

(You can read some of the behind-the-scenes of how Crisis Text Lines makes volunteering “stick”.)

Join a community walk.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) hosts National Suicide Prevention Week Walks all across the country! This is a fundraising event that allows people to walk in memory of loved ones, walk in support of those struggling, walk for themselves, or to connect with others who understand. 

Visit their website, search your state, and find a walk in your area.

Attend an event.

The AFSP will host a variety of digital events throughout National Suicide Prevention Week that you can add to your calendar. 

Additionally, you can search the organization’s main website to locate an in-person event supporting suicide prevention near you. 

Leadership organization Key Club is also encouraging folks to participate in events throughout Suicide Prevention Week, including digital storytelling efforts and seeking help through mental health screenings.

On Social Media

Share resources.

Whether it’s a hotline, a shareable graphic, or a comprehensive guide (feel free to share this one!), you can use your social media platforms to share resources with your community.

The AFSP has a number of helpful shareables to help you get started. 

Share your story.

If you are comfortable and feel ready to share your story, it can be a beacon of hope for those who may be struggling. Whether you create your own post or share your story through ASFP or the National Alliance on Mental Illness, know that somewhere, someone will feel more understood and more compelled to seek help because of your vulnerability. 

More Ways To Make a Difference

Wear mental health apparel.

When we struggle with our mental health, it’s easy to feel like we’re alone and that we’re the only ones who feel this way. That’s why it’s important to be able to talk about mental health openly and honestly — because you never know who is struggling in silence.

While we can’t strike up a conversation about depression or suicide with every person we pass on the street, we can find other ways to remind people they’re not alone: through the clothes we wear.

There are some incredible brands creating shirts and apparel that creatively represent mental health awareness with the goal to end the stigma of mental illness. We rounded up the best mental health shirts that also give back to nonprofits (and, of course, look good). 

Shop around for some new clothes and make a small difference in the lives of strangers everywhere you go. 

Put up a sign.

Just like you can wear a shirt that reminds people they are not alone — your yard can spread a message of hope to all who pass it.

In 2017, a woman in Oregon decided to stake yard signs around her neighborhood with messages like “You Matter”, “Don’t Give Up”, and “You Are Not Alone”.

The meaningful messages, which were created in response to a number of suicides in her community, began to go viral — with thousands of people asking how they could put similar signs up in their own neighborhoods.

She started a nonprofit called Don’t Give Up and has now shipped signs (and stickers and more) to every state.

You can learn more about the Don’t Give Up movement and get your own sign to fill your community with more hope.

Listen to mental health podcasts.

Podcasts can be a simple way to learn from experts and learn about anything from self-care tips and guided meditations — to people’s specific life experiences and stories of overcoming mental health challenges. Plus, research has shown that narrative audio storytelling (like podcasts) can have a positive effect on our brains.

While podcasts don’t take the place of therapy, they can be a helpful addition to therapy and can aid in the therapeutic process.

We rounded up the best mental health podcasts to subscribe to during Suicide Prevention Week — and to keep listening to all year long.

Watch mental health documentaries.

Similarly, documentaries are a great way to learn about important ideas and mental health is no exception. Whether you want to learn about systemic issues or hear individual stories of someone’s mental health journey, there is a documentary for you.

We curated a list of the best mental health documentaries to stream and watch during Suicide Prevention Week.

Read mental health books.

And, of course, you can buy (or borrow from your library) books about mental health to read during Suicide Prevention Week and all year long. 

We curated a list that offers a balance between educational, inspirational, entertaining, and emotional themes. Check out our guide to books about mental health

Frequently Asked Questions

When is Suicide Prevention Week?

Generally, Suicide Prevention Week takes 3place a week after Labor Day. In 2023, Suicide Prevention Week takes place from September 10th through 16th.

When is World Suicide Prevention Day?

World Suicide Prevention Day takes place on September 10th every year.

What is the theme for Suicide Prevention Week?

According to the World Health Organization, the triennial theme for Suicide Prevention Week 2021-2023 is “Creating Hope Through Action.” Other organizations have their own themes for the week, which change every year. For example, the nonprofit To Write Love On Her Arms’ theme for 2023 is “The World Is Not Better Without You.”

Is it called Suicide Prevention Week or Suicide Awareness Week?

While the annual weeklong event used to be commonly known as “Suicide Awareness Week”, in recent years the focus has been centered on prevention instead, with most organizations calling it “Suicide Prevention Week”. Some organizations, like NAMI, use the term “Suicide Prevention Awareness”, emphasizing both.

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P.S. Hispanic Heritage Month begins on September 15th. Learn how to celebrate via our guide! … and World Mental Health Day is next month. We created an activity guide as well!

Article Details

September 10, 2023 6:46 AM
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