September is noted as “Suicide Prevention Month,” though at the Well, every day we stay keenly aware of its ever-looming threat. Though suicide is often considered a taboo topic, the facts about it are too important to keep quiet. According the American Foundation for Suicide prevention, 3,924 Texans lost their lives to suicide in 2020. 
Each life that’s cut short is one too many. But knowing the facts about suicide is one of the first steps in breaking the stigma that surrounds it and in helping those at risk for ending their own lives.
Mental illness is the number one risk factor for suicide. Nearly half of those who die by suicide lived with known a mental illness at the time of their death.  Many others deal with undiagnosed mental health conditions. But engaging in treatment greatly reduces an individual’s risk. The Well Community helps members access treatment to manage their conditions. Staff assist them in locating community services and qualified mental health providers, as well as encourage them to follow their treatment plans.
Suicide is a leading cause of death in Texas. Suicide is the 11th most common cause of death across all age groups in the state, and the second most prevalent cause in individuals ages 10 to 34. The total deaths to suicide in Texas throughout 2019 reflected a total of 90,751 years of potential life lost before age 65. 
Substance use increases risk. Those who struggle with substance use disorder and addiction are significantly more likely to die by suicide.  Many times, this compounds the risk of those dealing with mental illnesses, as those who live with mental health conditions are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.
Men are at greater risk. Although women are more 1.8 times likely to attempt suicide, men are at greater risk for death by this means. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that men are nearly four times more likely to end their own lives. 
COVID has increased risk factors. While the full impact of COVID-19 on suicide rates and risk is yet unknown , one thing that is certain is that the support of others is more important than ever in preventing suicide. Many of the side effects of social distancing, including isolation and increased rates of substance abuse , are risk factors for suicide; and amid shortages of qualified mental health care providers, many who are struggling aren’t able to receive the care they need. In addition, long COVID can increase the risk for mental health struggles, including suicidal ideation. 
PREVENTION and HELP
Connections with others can prevent suicide. Strong links to friends, family members and community organizations play a big role in decreasing suicide risk.  But, those who deal with serious mental illnesses often struggle to form and maintain these connections. The Well Community provides a place to belong for those who deal with mental illness, helping prevent the isolation that often goes hand-in-hand with chronic mental health difficulties.
Worshipping with others decreases risk. Regular church attendance has been shown to significantly reduce suicide risk. One study found that women who attend church at least once a week were five times less likely to take their own lives than those who don’t participate in any sort of religious services. . However, those who live with serious mental illnesses often find it difficult to take part in traditional worship services. Weekly Thursday Night Life services at The Well include times of singing, prayer, Bible teaching and encouragement, providing a regular opportunity for members to practice their faith in community.
There’s a new 988 crisis line. According to the Mental Health Services Administration , 988 offers 24/7 access to trained crisis counselors who can help people experiencing mental health-related distress. That could be:
- Thoughts of suicide
- Mental health or substance use crisis, or
- Any other kind of emotional distress
People can call or text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org for themselves or if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support.
As we navigate the lasting challenges of the pandemic, the Well Community gives those dealing with serious mental illnesses a place where they belong, and where they’re encouraged to take steps toward stability. The connection and support members receive are powerful, life-giving and life-preserving.
Help us continue to serve them.
This blog is an updated repost from a 2021 blog.