Suicide is a serious public health matter, and prevention efforts are critical. September is Suicide Prevention Month, but it's always time to raise awareness, strengthen the dialogue and remind individuals, friends and families about resources that are available to help prevent suicide. Suicide is preventable, and there are resources and support services available throughout the year to promote positive mental health and increase resilience.
Did you know?
- On average, there are 132 suicides per day.
- Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in Virginia.
- Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-14 and the 3rd leading cause of death among people aged 15-24 in the U.S.
- 59% of all suicides were by firearms.
Services are provided throughout Fairfax County and include community-focused workshops, campaigns to raise awareness about mental health and evidence-based suicide prevention and mental health trainings for all residents. The Suicide Prevention Alliance of Northern Virginia (SPAN) provides information and opportunities for all residents to raise awareness and share resources to prevent suicide.
Warning Signs - What to Look For
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration indicate the following behaviors as warning signs:
- Talking about being a burden to others.
- Giving belongings away.
- Looking for a way to kill oneself such as searching online or buying a gun.
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
- Talking about feeling trapped or unbearable pain.
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
- Acting anxious or agitated, behaving recklessly.
- Sleeping too little or too much.
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated.
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself.
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
- Displaying extreme mood swings.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness cites risk factors that could increase an individual’s likelihood to experience suicidal thoughts:
- A family history of suicide.
- Substance use: Drugs can create mental highs and lows that worsen suicidal thoughts.
- Intoxication: Analysis from the CDC indicates around 1 in 5 people who die by suicide had alcohol in their system at the time of death.
- Access to firearms.
- A serious or chronic medical illness.
- Gender: Although more women than men attempt suicide, men are 4x more likely to die by suicide.
- A history of trauma or abuse.
- Prolonged stress.
- A recent tragedy or loss.
How to Respond to Someone in Crisis
- Use clear language such as, “Do you have a plan for how you would kill yourself?”
- Calmly ask supportive questions like, “Can I help you call your psychiatrist?”
- Express support and concern.
- Don’t raise your voice, threaten or argue.
- If you’re nervous, try not to fidget or pace.
- Assess the surroundings and remove items such as guns, knives, pills or items that could be used as a weapon.
- Be patient.
Asking a person if they are suicidal does not increase suicides or suicidal ideation. Learn how to identify, talk to, and support someone who may be experiencing these warning signs by becoming a Mental Health First Aider and a Suicide Prevention Gatekeeper with the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board.
Sign up for Mental Health First Aid and Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) trainings. Additionally, the Lock and Talk Northern Virginia safety program is a collaborative initiative of SPAN and CSB. This program offers free locking medication boxes and gun safety locks that fit a wide variety of firearms.
If you or someone you care about may be at risk of suicide, don't hesitate to reach out for help right away. These resources are available 24/7:
- Call or text 9-8-8, the 24/7 Suicide and Crisis Hotline
- Call the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board Emergency Services at 703-573-5679.
- Text "CONNECT" to 855-11 to contact PRS CrisisLink.
- Lifeline Chat: SuicidePreventionLifeline.org/chat
- Call PRS CrisisLink at 703-527-4077.
- In an immediate, life-threatening situation, call 911.
- If you are concerned, SPAN offers a Confidential Online Screening.
You can also come directly to the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board’s Emergency Services office, which is open 24/7.
- Sharon Bulova Center for Community Health
8221 Willow Oaks Corporate Drive, Fairfax
703-573-5679, TTY 711
Deciding when to help someone who may be at risk for suicide can be scary, but taking one step to reach out for support could save a life.