Cognitive Psychology

Thursday 10 September: World Suicide Prevention Day, A How-To Guide

2020 World Suicide Prevention Day banner in English

Thursday 10 September is World Suicide Prevention Day! To channel Smokey the Bear, Only you can prevent suicides. Yes you can. It’s not even hard. Okay, it is a little bit hard. You have to be willing to sit with someone who is feeling so down, depressed, defeated that they feel their only real option is to end it. They’re likely to be emotional and crying and stuff when you get into it. But, you can do it.

Given that we are living through a seemingly never ending pandemic led by one of the most incompetent racist mentally ill people ever, it probably behooves all of us to understand how to prevent suicide because, quite frankly, many of us just may well be.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of how to be the one person in someone’s life to actually care enough to try and prevent their suicide, let’s just explain the World Suicide Prevention Day.

World Suicide Prevention Day is sponsored by the International Association for Suicide Prevention to raise awareness of suicide and help to raise funds for prevention organizations. Take a moment to visit the website because they’ve got lots of great resources like banners to include in websites, e-postcards to send, a how-to guide, a guide to activities, and lists of statistics. It’s pretty cool even if it isn’t snarky, sarcasticky, or profaney.

Snarky Aside

You know it is damn difficult to write about suicide when you’re a snarky, sarcasticky, profaney blog! You can’t make any of the jokes you wanna make: Happy Suicide Prevention Day! or Suicide Prevention: A How-To Guide. Those are funny, but goddamnit, you can’t say that stuff any more. I blame the Ol’ Pussy Grabber for fouling our social media intercourse so badly that we can’t make tasteless tacky jokes anymore.

They even have this nifty video that I’ll embed so you won’t watch it. Go ahead and take a moment not to watch because buffering fears.

Meanwhile, the good folks over at National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — that’s US based (1-800-273-8255) — inform us that September is National Suicide Prevention Month and that this week is National Suicide Prevention Week. So, look for activities in the community you live in.

World Suicide Facts

800,000 people die by suicide every year in the world. That’s one person every 40 seconds — so in the five minutes it takes to read this post, that’s 8 people

Twice as many men committing suicide as women

76% of suicides occur in low and middle-income countries

39% occur in South-East Asia

50% of suicides in high-income countries have major depressive disorder

For each suicide there are 25 suicide attempts

135 people are affected by each suicide

US Suicide Facts

47,173 people died by suicide in the US in 2019

132 Americans die by suicide each day

1.4 million Americans attempt suicide each year

90% of suicides have a mental health issue at the time of death

Men are 3.6 times more likely to commit suicide

Women are 1.4 times more likely to attempt suicides

How-To Prevent Suicides

Number 1: ASK

The number one thing you can do is ask someone if they’re feeling suicidal. Many people worry that they’re going to cause a suicide by asking about a suicide. Don’t worry, everyone has thought about suicide before, even you. So, you’re not going to be giving anyone any ideas that they haven’t already thought of.

By asking someone who seems excessively down — remember that depression often accompanies suicide — is going to cause them to feel a sense of relief. People who end up committing suicide feel like they are out of options. By asking, you’re giving them an option.

Number 2: LISTEN

The most important human need is feeling understood. Now, that you’ve got someone talking, you’ve got to listen without being judgmental. Focus on accepting whatever they’re saying — don’t argue with them or try to convince them of anything — and be empathetic.

No matter what they’re telling you, if they’re seriously contemplating suicide, it’s because they are in tremendous emotional pain.


They teach you in suicide hotline classes to ask people about their plans. You become alarmed if they have a method, the means, and a time. The more definite it all is the higher the risk. It isn’t a serious threat if someone says they’re thinking of shooting themselves but they don’t have access to a gun. If they have a gun, the likelihood that they’ll commit suicide just went up.

Other studies have shown that if you remove a preferred way of committing suicides — closing access to specific buildings or bridges that people like to jump from in a community, for example — they are less likely to do it. The belief that suicidal people will find a way is a myth. Take away the means, and you’ll very likely prevent a suicide.

Number 4: social SUPPORT

We’re all social workers now. Once you’ve gotten someone through the suicidal crisis, you’ve got to help them build a support network of resources. Helping this person connect with friends and family and community organizations. You may need to do some real hands on work to help this person re-connect.


Just checking in with them periodically is going to help them reduce their feelings of hopelessness and develop a life worth living. You may need to do some reaching here, but persistence will pay off.

Number 6: LEARN MORE

Getting training in how to intervene when someone is feeling suicidal is like learning CPR or first aide. The more you know what to do, the more you’re going to be able to help and the more confident you’ll be in helping.

Find the resources in your community that will help someone who is suicidal. Are there community mental health resources? A public hospital? Contact these organizations to help you find out more:

If You Need Help

If you need help right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). This is a free 24-hour hotline. (Press 1 for a dedicated line for Veterans and their families. Para español, oprima 2.)

You can also call the Samaritans: 1-877-HOPE (4673)


You have lots of options to let me know that you’ve read this far! You can do anyone of these things:

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See, that wasn’t hard and you feel better about yourself already… and I feel better about you, too. Thanks for reading the post.

Image Attribution

The image was found on Pikrepo which provides royalty free photos.

8 replies »

  1. I spent years trying to save my son. He died by suicide August, 2017. He sent me a text “I just want you to know how much I love you,” I texted back, “I love you too.” THE END

    Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy Marsha!

      I am so sorry to hear your story, but I appreciate your sharing it. I know it has taken strength and courage to come to terms with your son’s suicide.

      I have struggled with autism, depression, and anxiety all of my life. I know how painful mental health disorders can be. I’m just so sorry that it came to that end for your son.



  2. In just short of ten years working On-Call Crisis I took many, many calls and saw in person many people with suicidal thinking and attempts/gestures. I never lost one who gave me a fighting chance to keep them alive, even a few who tried hard not to. It is the ones who didn’t call, or for whom no one else called or brought them to the clinic or the ER who became the ghosts that ask, “What could have made a difference? Who could have made a difference?”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy Bob!

      The rule of thumb: options make good mental health. When you feel like you’re out of options is when you feel the most hopeless and the most despair. Bless you, sir, for being willing to do the hard work of reaching for folks who have no one else to reach for them and for having the courage to believe that you had something to offer someone who felt like the world had nothing to offer them.


      Liked by 1 person

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