September Cause Awareness: National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

Human Services

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September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Suicide is a leading cause of death for individuals around the world, and September is an important time to have conversations to break down the stigma around mental illness and treatment for mental health. Keep reading to learn more about National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and ways you can acknowledge and observe this important cause. 

About National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

Suicide prevention awareness began in the 1950s, but it wasn’t until 1968 that clinical psychologist Edwin S. Shneidman, PhD started the American Association of Suicidology (AAS). A co-founder of the Los Angeles Suicide Prevention Center in 1958, Shneidman is considered a pioneer in suicide prevention.

Edwin Shneidman (left) at his home in Los Angeles, California with Maurizio Pompili, who was the recipient of the 2008 Shneidman Award.

In October 1998, the first National Suicide Prevention Conference was held in Reno, Nevada. Agencies from within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services were participants, along with academics and experts from around the nation. By this point, suicide was a global health issue, and the United Nations and World Health Organization had worked to establish guidelines for suicide prevention strategies. However, the U.S. had yet to establish their own guidelines. 

Thanks to the Reno Conference, the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Suicide was issued in 1999 and the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention followed in 2001. The National Strategy for Suicide Prevention is a “call to action that is intended to guide suicide prevention actions in the United States over the next decade.” It was updated in 2012, and the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General and the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (Action Alliance) are charged with advancing the strategy, monitoring implementation, and assessing progress. 

National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month (NSPAM) is celebrated every September. During September, the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) collaborates with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) to host World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10 with National Suicide Prevention Week being recognized in the week around September 10. 

Each year, World Suicide Prevention Day has a theme. The 2023 theme follows the triennial theme established in 2021: “Creating Hope Through Action.” The World Health Organization says this theme “serves as a powerful call to action and reminder that there is an alternative to suicide and that through our actions, we can encourage hope and strengthen prevention.” 

How to acknowledge National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

people holding a paper cutout of a person's face silhouette and a heart made up of puzzle pieces on top

Educate yourself on suicide prevention

The best way to acknowledge National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is to educate yourself on suicide prevention. You can check out programs like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Talk Away the Dark or attend a training by the American Association of Suicidology. Read books about mental illness and research risk factors and warning signs so you can better recognize when someone is in crisis and may need help. 

Raise awareness

Using social media to share about NSPAM is a great way to observe the month and spread awareness of suicide prevention. Encourage conversations with friends and family about challenging the stigma and attitudes around mental health, or attend a local suicide prevention walk and invite your friends and family to join you. 

Look out for others

The best way to engage in National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month directly is to look out for the people around you. Make mental health an open topic with your friends and family, and regularly check in with the people you love. If you want to take things a step further, look up your local crisis center or community hotline and become a trained volunteer. 

Nonprofits to support

close up of two people touching hands

211 Tampa Bay Cares

211 Tampa Bay Cares is a nonprofit dedicated to ensuring that residents and visitors in Pinellas County, Hernando County, and throughout the State of Florida are well-connected and informed about critical health and human services. From mental health services and financial assistance for housing to veteran and first responder support, 211 Tampa Bay Cares provides information and support for those who need it, 24 hours a day via their hotline. Donate to support their mission here.

Sharing Kindness

Sharing Kindness is an organization with a mission to provide education and programs for those experiencing grief throughout the Cape and Islands of Massachusetts. They aim to prevent suicide and reduce the stigma around getting help for mental health struggles through information, conversation, and with a variety of programs involving schools and the broader community. Donate to support their mission here. 

With Hope, the Amber Craig Memorial Foundation

With Hope, the Amber Craig Memorial Foundation was created to honor 14-year-old Amber Craig who passed away by suicide. The foundation’s mission is to help people like Amber through their educational programs for students, parents, teachers, staff, and community members. In addition to education, they equip individuals with the information they need to recognize the warning signs of suicide and to provide them with the tools and resources for critical lifesaving intervention. Donate to support their mission here. 

Suncoast Center

The Suncoast Center is an organization that provides access to emotional wellness and trauma services, children’s advocacy, sexual assault services, and suicide prevention education to the Pinellas County community. They offer outpatient services across multiple centers and have served over 28,000 clients. Donate to support their mission here. 

NAMI Oklahoma

NAMI Oklahoma is a branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and has seven affiliates across the state of Oklahoma. The organization facilitates support groups and conducts education programs to increase understanding and awareness of mental health issues,  encourage treatment, and advocate for better mental health services for everyone. Donate to support their mission here. 

Final thoughts

National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is an important awareness month for everyone to acknowledge. Suicide is a serious public health problem. It can affect anyone and has a far-reaching impact on those who attempt suicide and the people around them. This September, take the time to observe National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, educate yourself about suicide prevention, and have important conversations to break down the stigma around mental illness. 

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