Suicide Prevention Awareness Month (SPAM)

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month (SPAM)

If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call or text 988.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month — a time to raise awareness on this stigmatized, and often taboo, topic. In addition to shifting public perception, we use this month to spread hope and vital information to people affected by suicide. Our goal is to ensure that individuals, friends and families have access to the resources they need to discuss suicide prevention and to seek help. 


Suicidal thoughts, much like mental health conditions, can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background. In fact, suicide is often the result of an untreated mental health condition. While suicidal thoughts are common, they should not be considered normal and often indicate more serious issues. 

Throughout the month of September, NAMI will highlight our “Together for Mental Health” campaign, which encourages people to bring their voices together to advocate for better mental health care, including an effective and accessible crisis response system. NAMI wants any person experiencing suicidal thoughts or behaviors to have a number to call — and a system to turn to — that will connect them to the treatment and support they need. 

Know The Warning Signs 

Distinguishing “normal” behaviors from possible signs of a mental illness isn't always easy. There's no simple test to label one’s actions and thoughts as mental illness, typical behavior or the result of a physical ailment. 

Each illness has its own symptoms, but common signs of mental illness in adults and adolescents can include the following: 

  • Excessive worrying or fear 
  • Feeling excessively sad or low 
  • Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning 
  • Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria 
  • Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger 
  • Avoiding friends and social activities 
  • Difficulties understanding or relating to other people 
  • Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy 
  • Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite 
  • Changes in sex drive 
  • Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don't exist in objective reality) 
  • Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality (”lack of insight” or anosognosia) 
  • Overuse of substances like alcohol or drugs 
  • Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”) 
  • Thinking about suicide 
  • Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress 
  • An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance 

Mental health conditions can also begin to develop in young children. Because they’re still learning how to identify and talk about thoughts and emotions, children’s most obvious symptoms are behavioral. Symptoms in children may include the following: 

  • Changes in school performance 
  • Excessive worry or anxiety; for instance, fighting to avoid bed or school 
  • Hyperactive behavior 
  • Frequent nightmares 
  • Frequent disobedience or aggression 
  • Frequent temper tantrums 

 SPAM - Resources/Calls to Action 

  1. Crisis Response Tools 
    • If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 988 immediately. 
    • If you’re uncomfortable talking on the phone, you can also text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line. 
    • 988 Resources 
    • Navigating a Mental Health Crisis - GUIDE 
      • Talk openly and honestly. Don’t be afraid to ask questions like: “Do you have a plan for how you would kill yourself?” 
      • Remove means such as guns, knives or stockpiled pills 
      • Calmly ask simple and direct questions, like “Can I help you call your psychiatrist?” 
      • If there are multiple people around, have one person speak at a time
      • Express support and concern 
      • Don’t argue, threaten or raise your voice 
      • Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong 
      • If you’re nervous, try not to fidget or pace 
      • Be patient 
      • Infographic/Spanish Infographic 
  2. Advocacy Tools/CTAs 
    • Learn More About Your Local Legislators  
    • Share your story to power our advocacy by telling us your own crisis response experience. The real-life experiences of people who’ve encountered good or bad crisis response can help policymakers understand why change is needed.
    • Learn about mental health legislation in your state
    • Email your members of Congress to tell them to fund a crisis response infrastructure. 
    • Explore how your community can #ReimagineCrisis. Find helpful information and timely resources to use in your advocacy efforts to build a better crisis response system. 
    • Recruit other advocates by posting on social media to demand a mental health response to mental health crises. 
    • Stay up-to-date on Advocacy Alerts so you can #ACT4Mental Health. 
    • Sign up for NAMI National’s Leader News, for updated field resources bi-monthly.  

Read the NAMI Blog and Share  

The NAMI Blog will feature weekly stories with content related to our awareness events. This September, the theme will be Suicide Prevention and Support. Be sure to visit the NAMI Blog at and look for posts on our social media channels featuring quotes from our authors.  

Get Inspired by Personal Stories  

We will also feature personal stories of lived experience on and on our social media channels. Personal stories are brief, informal pieces submitted to NAMI. By sharing these stories, we aim to highlight the importance of mental health in all communities and to make people feel less alone in their mental health journeys.  


NAMI will feature videos from people sharing their stories of lived experience, such as NAMI Support Groups: A Safe Space, a video featuring Kenya Phillips, NAMI’s Manager of Support Groups, who reflects on the powerful and positive impact that NAMI support groups have on their lives. Look for additional content to be uploaded to our YouTube channel throughout the month.  

Graphics Inspiration, Samples and Downloads  

You can download graphics, logos and social media images to use during our awareness events here

Social Media  

Weekly/daily activations will be taking place on NAMI’s social media channels. Be sure to follow NAMI to tune in, repost, retweet and share:  

General Fast Facts  

Individual Impact: 

  • 79% of all people who die by suicide are male. 
  • Although more women than men attempt suicide, men are 4x more likely to die by suicide. 
  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10–14 and the 3rd leading cause of death among those aged 15-24 in the U.S. 
  • Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death overall in the U.S. 
  • 46% of people who die by suicide had a diagnosed mental health condition, but research suggests that 90% may have experienced symptoms of a mental health condition.

Community Impact: 

  • Annual prevalence of serious thoughts of suicide, by U.S. demographic group: 
    • 4.9% of all adults 
    • 11.3% of young adults aged 18-25 
    • 18.8% of high school students 
    • 45% of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth  
  • The highest rates of suicide in the U.S. are among American Indian/Alaskan Natives, followed by and non-Hispanic whites. 
  • Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are nearly 4x more likely to attempt suicide than straight youth. 
  • Transgender adults are nearly 9x more likely to attempt suicide at some point in their life compared to the general population. 
  • Suicide is the leading cause of death for people held in local jails.