Preventing suicide is a complex process that involves addressing risk and protective factors in people at risk, as well as providing effective care.
Suicide prevention is a multidisciplinary field that draws on mental health professionals, public health experts, and others with expertise in crisis response and support. This article focuses on strategies for preventing suicide attempts in youth.
1. Identify Risk
Suicide is a complex issue that often stems from a combination of stressors and health issues. Conditions like depression and anxiety are common contributing factors, but if mental health conditions are addressed they can improve and help to prevent suicide.
Risk factors are personal or environmental characteristics that increase the likelihood that a person will attempt or complete suicide. They include age, gender and ethnicity.
In a program called Zero Suicide, providers assess patients at every visit and assign them to one of four risk categories. People in acute risk get an in-depth psychiatric evaluation and begin treatment that day, or they go to an inpatient unit if necessary.
2. Encourage Help-Seeking
Help-seeking is one of the most important and effective ways to prevent suicide. Despite this, many people feel ashamed of seeking help and fail to do so.
This leads to a lack of support and services available to those who are at risk. It is therefore crucial to promote help-seeking behaviour among at-risk individuals.
The intention to seek mental health support is an important predictor of behavioural change and can be enhanced through favourable attitudes towards help-seeking. A number of studies have shown that attitudes are associated with help-seeking intentions [12, 13].
3. Encourage Supportive Relationships
A social support network helps people build up their strength during stressful times and gives them the motivation to thrive. Studies show that a strong social support system is associated with a lower risk of mortality.
The strongest relationships are those in which both parties communicate openly and honestly. They also respect the other person’s right to choose how they wish to respond to a situation, and offer their advice without condition.
A supportive partner encourages their significant other to set goals and work towards them. They are not afraid to speak up when they think their SO is not achieving their full potential, and they are willing to listen to their SO’s concerns.
4. Build Resilience
A resilient person is able to bounce back from challenges and negative events. They are also able to maintain a positive perspective and believe that they can handle difficult situations.
While resilience can be a natural trait that some people have, it is also a learned ability. That’s why it can take time to build a person’s resilience.
Resilience can be shaped by genetics, life experiences and social determinants such as supportive relationships. It can also be influenced by how well people know themselves and are supported by their communities (Southwick, Douglas-Palumberi, & Pietrzak, 2014).
Building resilience is about being able to cope with life’s ups and downs, including stressors and challenges. It also involves learning new skills and practicing self-regulation. This includes recognizing and accepting emotions, such as anger or sadness.
5. Take Action
If you’re worried that a friend or loved one may be considering suicide, take action. You can ask if they’re thinking of suicide, remove access to dangerous or lethal items, connect them to a support network and resources, and follow up with them regularly.
Research has shown that these interventions reduce the risk of suicidal ideation and attempts. They can be incorporated into care systems at the community, state, and national levels.