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September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month - How Individual Therapy Can Help

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among multiple age groups in the United States according to the Center for Disease Control. With children aged 10-14 and young adults 25-34 facing increased statistical risk, suicide prevention awareness is more important now than ever.

Suicide prevention awareness month occurs every September to support a message of suicide prevention for those who have struggled or are bereaved by suicide. During this month, mental health conditions and treatments that will aid suicide prevention are highlighted as are the facts surrounding suicide risk.

So how can we work together to raise awareness and reduce the stigma surrounding those who attempt suicide? Let’s take a look at the process, benefits, and steps we can take (including attending individual therapy) to help those at risk seek the support they need so they reach for a life well lived beyond these feelings.

What is the aim of individual therapy for someone who has suicidal thoughts?

For those seeking individual therapy sessions to alleviate suicidal ideation and improve emotional health, therapeutic approaches will focus on improving resiliency, increasing coping mechanisms, and cultivating a sense of safety. A trained professional who works with suicidal clients encourages people to have open conversations about their feelings and past experiences to analyze the best methods of providing support in this instance.

Research shows that cognitive behavior therapy (CBT or talk therapy) is often a beneficial place to begin but will assess different approaches to find the best fit for the client seeking mental health services.

How do mental health professionals decide how to help?

At Aspire, we offer a range of assessments and tests that can help to streamline treatment without much trial and error ahead of finding the support needed. Treatment for a suicidal person is focused on harm prevention, and we begin to work toward this in the first session by co-constructing a safety plan. A therapist uses information from client disclosure and their professional tools to evaluate current suicide risk and respond to the symptoms present.

The immediate goal of individual therapy with someone who has suicidal ideation is to reduce risk of death and suffering by providing support that will reduce stress and harming behaviors while encouraging well being through healthy decisions and accurate diagnosis.

How to respond when someone you love is in a mental health crisis

One of the leading ways to raise awareness for suicide prevention is by reducing stigma. When you care for someone, it can be difficult to listen to their thoughts about harming themselves. It’s important to do it anyway because speaking about their thoughts in therapy or with loved ones is a way to decrease suicide risk according to research.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 911. Do not wait for an appointment with a therapist or mental health professional. Emergency medical services are the best place to turn when there is an imminent risk to life and can help the individual to stabilize so that further mental health treatment planning can begin once the crisis has passed.

Talk therapy isn't always enough—here’s how you can support your loved ones

1. Encourage them to have honest conversations even if their words are difficult to hear.

2. Be honest and practical about the support you can provide and the support you cannot.

3. Help your loved one make a support plan if they express a desire for help or identify steps that could be taken to keep them safe (such as removing access to firearms and other prescription medication).

4. Consider acceptance to be the keystone of your relationship to ensure they don’t feel judged during time with you.

5. Offer assistance and encouragement for finding professional support, particularly if their access to counseling is limited by insurance or other factors.

Beyond individual therapy: Here's what needs to change

The Action Alliance, a national alliance for the prevention of suicide, has created an action plan supported by a variety of regulating bodies in the United States and, within it, they make a call for 6 key steps to reduce the risk to life that suicide currently presents in America. It is imperative that the stigma surrounding mental illness begins to be dismantled through access and education.

By working together with a physician and psychotherapist, individuals at risk for suicide will experience the most effective reduction of symptoms. By creating that same solidarity led by mental health professionals in the eyes of society, we can work toward suicide prevention by fostering awareness of a variety of mental health struggles.

If you are looking for ways to help, consider these steps:

● Educate yourself on how psychotherapy works to prevent and reduce harm tendencies and suicide
○ Self aware individuals are more likely to recognize symptoms of distress in themselves and others according to research.

● Donate your time money or skills to organizations that provide suicide prevention education or crisis care.

● Follow professional medical advice when taking medication, as some are known to cause suicidal thoughts.

● Advocate for increased access and awareness to tools like individual psychotherapy that can reduce risk and suffering.

● Discontinue substance use if you are struggling with mental illness.
○ Encourage your loved ones to do the same!

If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health condition that would benefit from seeking help from someone who can provide individual therapy in a knowledgeable and judgment-free environment, Aspire Neuropsychological Services is currently taking clients. Reach out to us today to get connected!