September is Suicide Prevention Month, a month dedicated to providing education about facts related to suicide, decreasing the stigma associated with the topic, and most importantly, raising the awareness that suicide is preventable. The theme of this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10th, is “Take a minute, change a life”. This theme is a reminder that suicide prevention is a community responsibility, and that by engaging in conversations, asking questions, and providing resources, we can each help decrease the impact that suicide has on the communities we all live in and the people we care about.

Few words carry as much weight as the term “suicide”, which is often almost afraid to be uttered for fear that the word itself may be contagious. However, as with similar fears, suicide is an issue best addressed in a community environment in order to clarify misperceptions and increase the possibility of equipping as many as possible with the tools to help friends seek support. There are few communities that are as close as one of a sports team and few places as connected to each other as the community that exists in a locker room. In that shared space, there is often an awareness of what is going on with each member—from who’s in pain and struggling—to who is doing well and is able to use their voice to lift another up. That’s why it’s so important that there is a willingness to have this conversation with teammates.

Studies suggest that for every suicide committed, at least 6 people are directly impacted, and more than that indirectly; this number increases exponentially if the individual is a public figure. Suicide is also the second leading cause of death among college students and young people between the ages of 15-24, and now the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. In 2015, there were over 44,000 suicides in the U.S., which averages out to over 120 suicides a day, and about one suicide every 12 minutes. Add to those statistics the fact that there is one suicide attempt every 29 seconds, that men make up more than 75% of those who complete suicide, and that untreated depression is considered one of the leading contributing causes of suicide, and it becomes clear why there is a need to have this discussion among our membership.

Stories of survivors include statements expressing the desire that just one person ask them how they were doing in the days or weeks before their attempt. They explain that they wanted someone to reach out, check in, and engage with them about what they may be feeling. Many survivors of a suicide attempt acknowledge an awareness that they did not really want to end their lives, but rather wanted to escape the pain they were experiencing. One survivor who attempted suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge stated, “I instantly realized that everything in my life that I’d thought was unfixable was totally fixable—except for having just jumped.” In fact, studies show that most individuals who seek help after a suicide attempt will not attempt again.

Unfortunately, too often we don’t speak up. And that happens for several reasons: fear of the response that may result, anxiety about the possibility of pain being “contagious”, ignorance about the signs and symptoms, and concern that there is a “right way” to have a discussion.
While there is often the fear of not knowing what to say when you suspect that a friend or teammate may be struggling with thoughts of hurting themselves, know that just asking the question and engaging in a conversation in a non-judgmental way often provides relief and hope.

In most cases, with the ability to identify the risk factors and with the proper intervention, suicide can be prevented. So, take a risk. Ask a question—or find someone else who is willing to ask the question. You never know when your care and concern may help save a life.

Click here to learn the warning signs and learn tips for players.

Take Action:

  • Join Active Minds and the NFLPA in their “WorldNeedsYouHere” social media campaign throughout the month of September.
  • The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is asking you to #Bethe1To help prevent suicide. Join in their twitter chat on September 5 to engage in this conversation:
  • Join the NFL/NFLPA Twitter Chat for Suicide Prevention month on Wednesday, September 20th, from 12-1pm. Participants include the Jed Foundation, the NFL Lifeline, and NFL Team Clinicians.

There are a number of suicide prevention trainings available to all communities, often for a nominal fee:

Finally, if you or someone you know is expressing thoughts of hurting themselves, don’t be afraid to reach out for help:

  • NFL Lifeline: 800-506-0078
  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255 (CHAT)