September is suicide prevention month. We should take this opportunity to both raise awareness of those who tragically die each year by suicide and remember there are concrete steps we can take to prevent such deaths from occurring in the future.
Every day, more than six Texans die by suicide and another 30 are hospitalized due to an unsuccessful attempt. Equally as troubling is the increased rate of suicide amongst veterans, who die by suicide at nearly twice the rate as non-veterans. And perhaps most troubling of all, suicide is the third leading cause of death among youth ages 15-24.
These tragic events are preventable through increased awareness, smarter policies, and empowering people to help others or themselves. This past session, I passed SB 279, which requires all student ID cards for students in 6th grade or higher to include the contact information for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. This simple step ensures children have easy access to this life-saving information, as they typically carry this card daily.
On top of this effort, during the past two legislative sessions we invested more than $330 million in the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium, which helps address mental health challenges and service disparities for our children. This will allow for early intervention for students at risk of suicide, substance abuse, or becoming a danger to themselves or others.
We also know that limiting quick access to lethal means is a proven way to reduce suicides. Over 70% of people with highly lethal suicide attempts thought about suicide for one hour or less prior to the attempt. Since we know that people tend to think about suicide for short periods of time, putting time and distance between a person and their chosen method for suicide is an effective way to decrease suicide attempts and deaths. This includes locking these items away or removing them from the house altogether and having a friend or family member stay with the person at risk.
Lastly, it is important that we speak up when we are concerned that someone we know might be considering suicide. Connecting individuals with 988, the new number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a proven way to prevent current and future risk of suicide. Also, informing family, teachers, and friends helps increase the likelihood of positive intervention. Talking about suicide and reducing the stigma around such feelings is something we can all do and saves lives.
Let’s all remember, we have the power and tools to save lives. Through seemingly small actions, we can save someone’s life. So this suicide prevention month, let’s do more to eliminate suicides in our communities and ensure no one has an empty seat at the dinner table or vacant home next door because of a suicide.
Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by state Sen. Juan Hinojosa of McAllen. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian International News Service with the permission of the author. Hinojosa can be reached by email via: [email protected].