September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

With the number of people dying by suicide increasing in Minnesota and across the country, it’s important to take time this month to raise awareness of this public health crisis and steps we can all take.

Thoughts of suicide can emerge in people regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, race and socioeconomic status. They should always be taken seriously. It’s often a sign of an untreated mental illness, such as depression or substance use disorder.

Some of the warning signs include feeling hopeless, becoming isolated, sleeping too much or too little, talking about death or how they are a burden to others or being agitated or angry. If you are worried or concerned about someone don’t be afraid to talk openly and honestly with the person.

Asking if they plan on taking their own life doesn’t plant the seed. Be sure and express your support and concern without debating whether suicide is right or wrong. Be sure to remove access to anything that could be used to hurt themselves. Learn about the resources in your community.

Every county has a mental health crisis line and, in some communities, there are crisis homes, mobile mental health crisis teams and specialized psychiatric emergency rooms. 

There is a national suicide hotline – 1-800-273-TALK – and a national crisis text line that can be reached by texting MN to 741-741. Lastly, if the person is in immediate danger of hurting themselves, call 911 and tell the dispatcher that it is a mental health emergency.

You might also consider taking a free suicide prevention class called QPR – question, persuade, refer – that is one-hour and offered by NAMI Minnesota and many other organizations. During Suicide Prevention Awareness Month take that extra step to learn more.

– Sue Abderholden is executive director of NAMI Minnesota (National Alliance on Mental Illness).