Since the onset of the pandemic, the suicide rates in the U.S. have raised concerns across our nation. While the overall suicide rate declined by 3%, that trend was not universal. Although rates declined among the white population, it increased among other demographics. Suicide death rates in 2020 were highest among American Indian, Alaska Native, Black and Latino people, males and people who live in rural areas. And during the decade between 2010 and 2020, nearly half a million lives (480,622) were lost to suicide.
To shed light on this important issue, MJ is featuring the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) for August’s Charity of the Month. This voluntary health organization is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide. Education, advocacy, research and community are a few of the main avenues of their work as they seek to bring about positive change and reduce the rate of suicide across our nation.
One of AFSP’s key programs is Project 2025: a nationwide initiative to reduce the annual rate of suicide in the U.S. by 20 percent by 2025. Fueled by extensive research with guidance from the top minds in the field, AFSP has examined the following:
- Who are we losing to suicide?
- How are we losing them?
- Where are we losing them?
- What can we do to save lives?
From evaluating the data that answers those questions, AFSP identified four critical areas to save the most lives in the shortest amount of time: Firearms, Healthcare Systems, Emergency Departments and Corrections Systems. Project 25 involves partnering with organizations in these four areas to reduce the annual suicide rate by 20% by 2025—making it the lowest it’s been in 30 years.
- FIREARMS: 51% of all suicides in the U.S. are by firearm, and 60% of all firearm deaths are suicides. AFSP holds that suicide prevention education must become a basic component of firearms ownership. By working with key partners, AFSP aims to educate the range, retail and broader firearms-owning communities on how to spot suicide risk and know what steps they can take to save lives.
- HEALTHCARE SYSTEMS: Up to 45% of people who die by suicide visit their doctor the month before their death. AFSP recognizes that large healthcare systems in both primary and behavioral care are a critical setting where coordinated suicide prevention strategies can dramatically impact lives saved. Project 2025 is collaborating with some of our largest healthcare systems and organizations to accelerate the adoption of risk identification and suicide prevention strategies that work.
- EMERGENCY DEPARTMENTS: Over a third of people who die by suicide make an Emergency Department visit in the year prior to their death. Emergency departments present a key opportunity to identify and treat the individuals at the highest and most immediate risk for suicide. This strategy involves basic screening and interventions which can provide a safety net for at-risk patients seen in emergency departments.
- CORRECTIONS SYSTEMS: Recent data shows that suicide in prisons has increased 30% in the past several years. Suicide is also the leading cause of death in jails. AFSP knows that incarcerated people are particularly vulnerable to suicide and are committed to changing the culture of suicide prevention in our country’s jails and prisons.
There are many ways to get involved with AFSP and advocate for suicide prevention. Whether you decide to support Project 2025, find a local AFSP chapter, volunteer or access a multitude of educational resources, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved. AFSP also provides support for those who have lost someone to suicide and provides community connections and mental health resources to help people heal from their loss.
In line with MJ Foundation’s commitment to embracing humanity and being an active for good, we encourage you to get involved with AFSP in any way you can to advocate for suicide prevention and help make a difference. Click below to visit the AFSP website and learn more.AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR SUICIDE PREVENTION WEBSITE