Whether its organizing a walk, honoring a loved one's memory, or raising money for awareness, millions remembered those lost to suicide on September 10th. It's World Suicide Prevention Day, aiming to bring awareness to the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, and 15th around the world.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention says on average, 123 people commit suicide in the U.S. each day, accounting for 44,965 deaths each year. Men die by suicide more than three times as often as women, with the rate being highest for white, middle aged men. However, suicide occurs across every demographic in the U.S. AFSP officials say there is no single cause, and suicide most often occurs when stressors exceed the coping abilities of someone suffering from a mental health condition.
It's something the Boston Police Department says they take seriously on September 10th, and all week long. “National Suicide Prevention Week is an important opportunity to elevate the conversation about suicide prevention and mental health, and we encourage all officers to get involved,” said William G. Gross, Boston Police Commissioner.
Boston police officers will wear remembrance and awareness bands on their badges during the month of September. They'll also carry informational brochures on risk factors and warning signs for suicide, as well as where to go for help.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 15-34 in Massachusetts, according to the AFSP. More than four times as many people die by suicide in Massachusetts annually than by homicide.
In regards to their September partnership, Maggie Morali, MPH, director of the Interactive Screening Program at AFSP said: “Police officers are accustomed to servicing others, and this is an opportunity to help spread awareness and ensure that all officers stay healthy and strong.”
The International Association for Suicide Prevention says the awareness day is a good reminder to encourage everyone to take a minute to reach out. They believe one minute checking in on a family member, friend, colleague, or stranger could change that person's life. Experts say having a compassionate person to talk to can restore hope with someone who is struggling. There's a common misconception that talking about suicide may make the situation worse, but IASP officials say they've found that's not the case. Empathy, compassion, concern, knowledge of resources and a desire to help are important to preventing a tragedy.
They recommend three steps: noticing what's going on with you, your family, colleagues and friends. Then, starting a conversation if you notice something is different. And finally, finding out what help is available for both you and others.
108 million people are estimated to mourn a loved one lost to suicide each year. Prevention groups hope by raising awareness, reducing the stigma, and striking up a conversation, some day those numbers will start to go down. If you or someone you know are struggling, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.
Kim Lucey is a freelance journalist with more than a decade of experience in the field. Her career has included coverage of big breaking news events like the Sandy Hook school shooting, lockdown in Watertown, MA following the Boston marathon bombings, and Superstorm Sandy. Her in-depth reports have garnered awards, including a focus on treating mental health issues in children. Currently, she is a reporter at a television station covering the news across the Greater Boston Area with an appreciation for fact-finding and storytelling. Follow Kim on Facebook and Twitter.