top of page
  • Brittany Montes, Psy. D.

Recognizing and Preventing Suicide

The month of September has been viewed as Suicide Prevention Month. A month designed with the goal of reducing and, ultimately, eliminating suicides across the country. Unfortunately, even with increased awareness surrounding suicide and suicide ideation, the stigma remains strong and its often talked about in hushed whispers. Further, access to mental health care is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain given the increased demand and decreased providers.

Nation Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

Suicide rates have increased by approximately 36% since 2000 (CDC, 2023). Furthermore, researchers have found that in 2021, approximately 12.3 million people seriously considered suicide, 3.5 million people formed a plan for suicide, 1.7 million people attempted suicide, and 48,183 completed suicide (CDC, 2023). Furthermore, suicide is the 9th leading cause of death for individuals aged 10 to 64 years (CDC,2023).

While the statistics are alarming, there are risk factors and warning signs that we can all be aware of to assist in preventing suicide. Notably, risk factors are simply things to consider that could increase risk for suicidal behaviors, but are not always associated with suicidal ideation. The CDC (2023) notes that risk factors include a history of previous suicide attempts, loss of family members to suicide, substance use, mood disorders, social isolation, trauma, chronic illness/pain, access to lethal means, and the experience of having been bullied.

Warning signs, however, are likely more indicative of suicidal ideation and/or behaviors in both yourself and those around you. These signs include frequently talking or writing about death, feelings of hopelessness/helplessness, a sense of worthlessness, and decreased reasons for living. Additionally, warning signs include increased drug/alcohol use, withdrawal from friends and family, and feeling as though you are a burden (CDC, 2023).

Conversely, there are several factors that aid in preventing suicide ideation and behaviors. Specifically, holding strong connections to one’s cultural identity and social support system significantly reduces the risk for suicidal behaviors (CDC, 2023). Additionally, maintaining regular contact with mental health providers and supports also reduces the risk of suicide. Finally, holding strong social connections combined with problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills also aids in the reduction of risk for suicide (CDC, 2023).

Knowing the risk factors and warning signs is an excellent first step in reducing the risk of suicide among your friends and family. However, preventing suicide requires action as well. Taylor-Desir (2023) stresses the importance of asking your loved ones if they are thinking about suicide if you suspect ideation may be present. Additionally, Taylor-Desir (2023) noted that the long-held perception that asking about suicide increases the likelihood of suicide attempts is a myth. Rather, asking our loved ones about their possible ideation aids in the ability to provide support and prevent suicide attempts.

Furthermore, Taylor-Desir (2023) recommends that friends and family members of individuals experiencing suicidal ideation assist in establishing a safe environment (i.e. removing firearms, medications, knives, etc.) and regularly checking in with their loved ones. Finally, it is often beneficial to assist in connecting your loved one to ongoing mental health support and following up with them to ensure that they maintain engagement with these supports.

Unfortunately, suicide has become an epidemic in the U.S. However, suicide ideation and suicide loss do not have to be isolating experiences. Given the staggering statistics, it is important to remember that you are not alone in either experiencing ideation yourself or in your loved ones. It is vitally important to reach out to loved ones to provide (or receive) support and compassion. Additionally, continued conversation around the topic of suicide will serve to reduce the stigma associated with this occurrence.

If you or someone you love is experiencing suicidal ideation, please reach out to the National Crisis Line at 988.

About the Author:

Dr. Montes is a licensed clinical psychologist and co-owner of Cognitive Behavior Therapy Center in Chesapeake, VA.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023, August 10). Preventing Suicide. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Taylor-Desir, M. (Ed.). (2023, February). Suicide prevention. American Psychiatric Association.

bottom of page