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September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and its purpose is to provide awareness and information about a subject that is often considered to be taboo. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States, with almost 46,000 in 2020. This equates to approximately one death every 11 minutes.

Having conversations about suicide and its root causes will help take this negative stigma away and help those afflicted with negative feelings feel supported in getting help. If you or a loved one experiences thoughts of suicide or self-harm, remember that help is available and that you do not have to face these feelings alone.

Risk factors

There are several factors that indicate someone may be at risk of suicide. Internal risk factors can include things like:

History of mental illness

History of a previous attempt

Chronic illness and/or physical aliment

Legal or financial problems

Difficult and/or traumatic childhood experiences

Impulsive behavior

Substance use and/or abuse

In addition, there are external factors that may also play a part such as interpersonal relationships, the community, and society in general. These risks factors may include but are not limited to:


Violent relationships

Social isolation

Lack of health care access


Stigma related to seeking mental health care

Unsafe media portrayals of suicide

Behavioral health care

Behavioral health care can provide compassionate mental health services that help individuals cope and build skills to restore their emotional well-being. Illnesses like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social phobias and others can be treated with your individual needs as a priority.

Most suicides are preventable – do not wait to seek help.

Crisis and Suicide 988 Lifeline

If you or someone you know is struggling or in a mental health crisis that could lead to suicide, do not wait for help – call or text 988 for help. In addition, you can reach mental health professionals online by chatting 988Lifeline.org.

In 2020, Congress designated the number 988 as the dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Think of it as a 911 for mental health distress: Dialing or texting the number puts you in touch with a professional who can provide free and confidential support 24/7. Services at this number are available to anyone in the United States as of 2022.

Jacquelyn Baker, LCSW, is a behavioral therapist with UPMC Behavioral Health and sees patients at UPMC Williamsport Divine Providence Campus, 1100 Grampian Blvd., Williamsport. For more information, visit UPMC.com/BehavioralHealthNCPA.


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