September is National Suicide Prevention Month

Published 9:31 am Thursday, September 3, 2015

One of September’s themes is suicide prevention and awareness. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people.

The numbers may vary slightly from year to year but on the average, a person dies by suicide every two hours in the United States. White males have the highest rate of suicide with 19.6 percent. Latina females attempt suicide more than any other female racial group.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) are at an increased risk also. Being LGBTQ is not the risk itself, but living in the closet, being outed by someone else, or being ridiculed are specific stressors for this population. Being black or Latino LGBTQ may also add to the risk because they are less likely to come out to family or friends.

Important signs (not all inclusive) of suicidal behavior may include threatening to hurt or kill themselves, seeking access to pills, weapons, or other means to kill themselves and talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide (including in schoolwork, creative writing, and artwork).

Other signs could be rage, anger, or seeking revenge, feeling trapped, withdrawing from friends, family or society, or giving away prized possessions.

If you know of a young person in this situation, tell that person that you are concerned and you want to help. Express your empathy for the person and what their situation is. Clearly state that the thoughts of suicide are common and help is available to discuss these thoughts, because this may instill a sense of hope.

Let the person know that these thoughts do not have to be acted on. Encourage the person to do most of the talking, if they are able to. Suicidal thoughts are often a plea for help and a desperate attempt to escape from problems and distressing feelings. They may feel a great relief after talking.

Self-injury may indicate a number of different things besides suicide. Some people who are hurting themselves may be at risk for suicide. Others engage in a pattern of self-injury over weeks, months, or years and are not necessarily suicidal. Do not ignore suspicious injuries. If you suspect that someone you care about is deliberately hurting themselves, you need to discuss it with them and give them resources for help.

Different types of non-suicidal self-injury may include cutting, scratching or pinching their skin, enough to cause bleeding or a mark that remains on the skin. Ripping, tearing or carving words or patterns in their skin, interfering with the healing of wounds, or burning their skin with cigarettes, matches, or even hot water are signs of this also. These are just a few. Ten to twenty percent of United States middle and high school students are doing non-suicidal self-injury.

As a Mental Health First Aid Instructor, I have many resources available for anyone who needs to talk. I have recently participated with training many counselors from a local school district and will be doing two more within the month.


Rob Herbstreith is a community service trooper with the Michigan State Police. If you have questions or comments, email, or call 269-683-4411.