September is National Suicide Prevention Month, but it is an important topic year-round. Unfortunately, suicide rates are on the rise in the U.S. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, suicide rates increased in nearly every state between 1999 and 2016.

Suicide is a hard thing to talk about, but it’s important to bring the topic out of the shadows. While the recent suicides of designer Kate Spade, 55, and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, 61, stunned many Americans, the reality is that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in our country. In fact, nearly 45,000 people die by suicide each year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

With the number of suicides on the rise, it’s important to know the warning signs of a person at risk. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), you should be concerned and seek assistance if an individual:

  • Talks about killing himself or herself
  • Increases alcohol and drug use
  • Becomes aggressive
  • Withdraws from friends, family, and normal activities
  • Has significant mood swings
  • Is talking, writing, thinking about, or otherwise focused on death
  • Displays impulsive or reckless behavior

People who may be in imminent danger may begin getting their affairs in order, giving away possessions, saying goodbye to friends and family, and suddenly acting very calm. They also may try to obtain a weapon or prescription medication.

If you suspect a loved one is considering suicide, don’t be afraid to address the issue. NAMI advises that you speak openly, honestly, and calmly to the person in distress. NAMI also recommends trying to determine if the individual has a plan for committing suicide, and removing or securing any weapons or stockpiled pills. Always make a point of showing that you care. Offer to help them contact a therapist or ask if there is anything else you can do to help.

After a crisis, staying in touch with the person can be tremendously helpful, because studies indicate the number of suicides drop when someone follows up with the person who is at risk.

The NIMH has found that people who are most at risk for suicide often share certain characteristics, including:

  • Depression, mental disorders, or substance abuse disorders
  • Certain medical conditions
  • Chronic pain
  • A prior suicide attempt
  • Family history of a mental disorder or substance abuse
  • Family history of suicide
  • Family violence, including physical or sexual abuse
  • Having guns or other firearms in the home
  • Having recently been released from prison or jail
  • Being exposed to others’ suicidal behavior, such as that of family members, peers, or celebrities

If you are worried someone may attempt suicide or you yourself are depressed, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255), where trained counselors are available 24/7.

Remember, you also can discuss your concerns with your care team. We value our members and want to be there for you and help you be there for those you love.