What Is Suicide Prevention Day?

help hotlines to call

Verywell / Madelyn Goodnight

World Suicide Prevention Day is observed on September 10th every year to support the worldwide commitment to suicide prevention. 

Suicide is far too common. Every year, more than 703,000 people die by suicide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which is one person every 40 seconds. In the United States, suicide is a leading cause of death

By sharing our mental health stories, raising awareness, and taking actionable steps in our local communities, we can prevent suicide. World Suicide Prevention Day reinforces this idea by providing events, resources, and actionable steps.

History of Suicide Prevention Day

Organized by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) and co-sponsored by the WHO, the observance day was first implemented in 2003. 

The initial goal was to amplify the message that “suicide is preventable.” Over the years, though, World Suicide Prevention Day has grown and evolved its messaging to include themes such as “Suicide Prevention: One World Connected” and “Take a Minute, Change a Life.”

This year’s, 2020, theme "Creating Hope Through Action” focuses on the importance of taking action, no matter how big or small, to help individuals who are suffering. 

“By creating hope through action, we can signal to people experiencing suicidal thoughts that there is hope and that we care and want to support them,” says IASP. “By encouraging understanding, reaching in, and sharing experiences, we want to give people the confidence to take action. To prevent suicide requires us to become a beacon of light to those in pain. You can be the light.”

Every year, numerous countries participate in the day by hosting activities. Some events that have taken place include:

  • IASP’s release of the film “Step Closer” highlights the need for collective support in preventing suicide worldwide. 
  • Cycle Around the Globe 2020, a cycling event hosted in more than 40 countries and resulted in more than $12,000 raised for suicide prevention efforts.
  • Light a Candle campaign to encourage survivors of suicide and those who’ve lost loved ones to suicide to reflect and remember by lighting a candle on the eve of World Suicide Prevention Day. 

World Suicide Prevention Day also coincides with Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, hosted by National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), National Suicide Prevention Week, sponsored by the American Association of Suicidology (AAS), and National Recovery Month, currently hosted by NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals.

All of these are observed in the United States throughout September and are helping reduce the stigma associated with mental health, substance misuse, and suicide. 

How to Support Suicide Prevention Efforts

It's important to learn about the warning signs and risk factors of suicide. You should also take proactive steps to safeguard your own mental health, encourage help-seeking, and empower your friends, family, colleagues, and communities to support one another should a crisis occur, explains Stephanie Rogers, Senior Vice President of Communications & Marketing at the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention.

The best thing you can do is armor yourself with information and take action when you recognize signs or symptoms of depression, suicidal thoughts, or self-harm, indicating that someone is at risk of contemplating or attempting suicide. 

To observe World Suicide Prevention Day, Rogers suggests taking the following steps:

  • Add crisis resource numbers to your phone and encourage loved ones to do the same.
  • Reach out to a friend, family member, or person in your community who you think may be struggling with their mental health. 
  • Advocate for mental health policies that ensure everyone in your community has access to mental health care, suicide prevention training, and funding for local crisis resources.
  • Get involved in community organizations. 

You can also attend an event, host your own, donate money, or volunteer your time to support the ongoing work of local, national, and international organizations that are working to prevent suicide around the world.

Organizations that offer substance misuse services, behavioral health services, and mental health care are essential to preventing suicide. So are homeless shelters, community support groups, and other services that support individuals through personal hardships. 

Start the Conversation

It can be hard to know when someone may be thinking about suicide, explains Doreen Marshall, PhD, Vice President of Mission Engagement at the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention.

Take notice of changes in behavior, expressions of hopelessness, changes in mood, or difficulty with daily activities that could indicate the presence of a worsening mental health condition, and don't be afraid to ask someone if they have been having thoughts of suicide, especially if they're experiencing significant life stressors.

While mental health professionals have education, tools, and resources to support individuals struggling with their mental health, Dr. Marshall says we all play a critical role in suicide prevention. Having an open, authentic conversation about mental health with loved ones is a great first step.

This may not be easy, of course, but Dr. Marshall offers some useful tips:

  • When someone is struggling, just listen to them.
  • Let others share at their own speed. 
  • Don’t pass judgment or offer advice; just be present.
  • Understand that we all experience mental health differently, and that’s OK.
  • Following the conversation, check back in and offer to connect them to professional help if they need it. 

For additional conversation starters, you can download the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention’s #RealConvo guides

If you’re concerned about what you’re noticing or become aware that you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, Dr. Marshall says it's important to reach out to a mental health professional for support.

Mental health looks different for everyone, but we all need support. No matter if it’s a loved one, a neighbor, a therapist, or a community organization, it’s important to have a reliable network of people who are there when life gets hard.

This World Suicide Prevention Day, open the lines of communication. If you know someone who is struggling, reach out to them. If you, yourself, are struggling, open up to a loved one or a mental health expert. Starting the conversation is an important first step in getting help.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

A Word From Verywell

The narrative around mental health is changing in the United States. Health plans are now offering their members behavioral health services. Employers are prioritizing their employees’ mental health with increased paid time off. Celebrities are talking about their own mental illnesses. Mental health services, from free apps to online therapy, are becoming more accessible and more affordable. Still, a stigma exists and it’s important to continue to address it.

Thousands of Americans are hurting or know a loved one who's hurting, and we need to continue to make mental health a priority by advocating for policy changes, building community relationships, sharing resources, and most importantly, seeking mental health care when our mental health is harmed, which will encourage others to do the same.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Suicide worldwide in 2019: global health estimates. World Health Organization. June 16, 2019.