National Suicide Prevention Week: Experts share ways to help save lives

NOW: National Suicide Prevention Week: Experts share ways to help save lives

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- September is National Suicide Prevention Month.

According to the CDC, suicide rates increased 36% across the country between 2000 and 2021, and are still on the rise today.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reports 905 people died of suicide in 2021 in the state of Wisconsin.

That number was higher in 2022, with 912 estimated deaths by suicide.

Though suicide awareness events are held all month, National Suicide Prevention Week is held Sept. 11-14, meant to educate the public on how to help others.

Experts say early detection intervention is the best way to save lives.

Dr. Shilagh Mirgain, distinguished psychologist with UW Health, says children are particularly vulnerable, especially LGBTQ+ identifying youth.

"Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10 to 14, and the third leading cause of death among those aged 15 to 24," Dr. Mirgain said.

The Craig Yabuki Mental Health Walk-In Clinic at Children's Wisconsin has recently seen higher numbers.

"Since the school year has started, we have seen a spike in anxiety, depression, self-harm," said clinic manager Tammy Makhlouf.

Dr. Mirgain says the pandemic contributed to a recent rise in suicidal ideation, with new stressors coupled with severe loneliness.

"People are increasingly becoming disconnected, feeling socially isolated," Mirgain said.

For prevention, Mirgain says to learn the warning signs: a change in behavior, acting out, or becoming withdrawn.

Next, have a candid conversation: ask what they're feeling and how you can help.

"Offering some care, warmth and compassion, that often gives somebody a sense of hope," Mirgain said.

Then, work with them to get professional help.

"We don't want kids to have to hide and struggle and then by the time they are seeing somebody, it may be too late," Makhlouf said.

The most important tool for suicide prevention is to talk about it and take it seriously.

"If kids are starting to talk about mental health, then it becomes more normal, and people are more apt to seek treatment," Makhlouf said.

"Help them develop coping strategies, and just be around to listen," Mirgain said.

The National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is 988. Those in need can call or text 988 at any time.

Click here for more information on the Craig Yabuki Mental Health Walk-In Clinic.

For more suicide prevention resources, click here.

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