FREE AND CONFIDENTIAL MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES
Overview of suicide prevention
As the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S., suicide is a far reaching issue that affects many individuals and the people that love them. Every day, approximately 130 Americans die from suicide. Suicide and suicidality is preventable, and can be treated.
Suicidal thoughts are often the result of an untreated mental health condition, and can impact anyone regardless of age, race, gender, or other demographic.
Oftentimes suicide is a response to intense environmental factors and deep emotional pain. Improving social connection and life conditions can reduce the intensity of suicidal thoughts.
Historically marginalized populations experience disproportionately high rates of suicide, often due to challenges faced in receiving culturally competent care and accessing behavioral health care, as well as experiences of discrimination and many other factors which may increase suicide risk.
Certain populations are at especially high risk of suicide:
– LGBTQ+ youth are 4 times more likely to commit suicide than straight youth
– 75% of all people who die of suicide are male
– Transgender people are 12 times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population
– 50% of college students report suicidal ideation at some point in college
– Veterans have a 22% higher risk of suicide than civilians
– Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in Native American populations
Make a safety plan and reach out to someone you trust, like a family member, friend, doctor, health care provider, or counselor for help if you or someone you love are experiencing suicidal thoughts.
Specific challenges faced by and resources for marginalized communities
Historically marginalized communities face disproportionately high rates of suicide, in addition to increased barriers to accessing culturally competent and trauma-informed mental health treatment and services.
Free and confidential resources for these populations are listed below.
Black and Latinx Individuals
– Dee Dee’s Cry is an organization in Roxbury that provides support and resources for people of color who are dealing with mental health challenges, including a support group for survivors of suicide attempts.
– How to cope with racial trauma or be a better ally; more detailed information here
– Therapy For Black Girls provides podcasts, a blog, and other mental health resources for Black women and girls
– The Steve Fund focuses on the mental and emotional well-being of young people of color. Their ‘Resources’ tab on their website has links to blog posts, a podcast, crisis text line, and webinars
– This page contains links to Spanish Language mental health screening tools, and other infographics about mental health
Asian American & Pacific Islander Individuals
– Asian American Health Initiative mental health resources
– Asian Women for Health: a community-based network dedicated to advancing Asian women’s health
– Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence: 24 hour multilingual helpline and resources for escaping domestic violence
Native American/Tribal Populations
– Native communities experience higher rates of suicide than any other racial or ethnic group in the U.S., especially Native American youth, with a suicide rate 2.5 times higher than the national average.
– We R Native provides resources and support to Native Americans who are struggling with their mental health, including stories from individuals with lived experiences, tools to develop resilience in mental health, and advice columns.
– StrongHearts Native Helpline is a 24/7 safe and confidential helpline for Native Americans, offering culturally-appropriate assistance for those in need.
– This webinar from the National Indian Health Board is designed for community members and Tribal behavioral health professionals to provide resources and suggestions on how to deal with the heightened risk of suicide posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
– This infosheet from the Center for American Indian Health provides tips and suggestions for mental wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
– The Trans Lifeline provides trans peer support for when in crisis or when you just need someone to talk to. It is a fully anonymous and confidential hotline that offers its services 24/7.
– The It Gets Better Project is an organization that offers connections for the LGBTQ+ population by uplifting and empowering through sharing stories and offering guidance. Their website offers many personal testimonies about mental health struggles and how fellow LGBTQ+ community members have overcome hardships in their lives.
– The Sydney Borum, Jr. Health Center at Fenway Health provides gender affirming healthcare, access to HIV medication, and safe, non-judgemental primary and behavioral health care for young people ages 12–29 who may not feel comfortable going anywhere else. No one is turned away.
– The Boston Alliance of LGBTQ+ Youth (BAGLY) is a youth-led, adult-supported organization with a clinic, support group, and other resources
People behind bars
– Individuals with mental and behavioral health conditions are vastly overrepresented in the criminal punishment system. People with mental and behavioral conditions at risk of suicide in jails often spend months on “mental health watch,” which is essentially extended solitary confinement, exacerbating their conditions.
– Black and Pink is a program that pairs incarcerated individuals with people in the community as penpals, giving them a supportive outlet and providing a connection to the outside world.
– The Prison Book Program mails books to people who are incarcerated to support their educational and personal development as well as offering a form of escape and entertainment.
– The suicide rate for veterans is 1.5 times higher than that of the general population, with about 20 veterans dying from suicide each day.
– Statewide Advocacy for Veterans Empowerment (SAVE) is a Massachusetts program advocating for veterans’ mental health needs and suicide prevention by acting as a liaison to connect veterans with services to help them transition back into civilian life.
– The Veterans crisis line connects veterans in crisis and their loved ones with qualified responders through a confidential hotline, available 24/7.
– Making the connection provides veterans and their families with resources to feel supported by fellow veterans that have also struggled with suicidal ideation.
– You Matter is a safe space for young people to discuss and share stories about mental health and wellness, created and administered by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
– Your Life Your Voice, run by the Boys Town National Hotline organization, provides youth and families the opportunity to ask mental health-related questions via phone, text, chat or email.
Impacts of COVID-19 on Suicidality
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated mental health challenges due to the intense feelings of isolation, anxiety, fear, and socioeconomic stress.
Data collected in the U.S. found that 41% of adults reported feeling anxious or depressed, 13% reported increased use in substances, and 11% reported suicidal ideations. Declines in mental health disproportionately impacted communities of color, essential workers, adults who lost their jobs, and women with children.
Certain groups can be especially susceptible to increased suicide rates during the pandemic, namely those that are more vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19.
– Elderly populations experience heightened levels of social isolation due to their vulnerability to the virus, and may experience increased anxiety and depression
– Young people experienced an increase in suicide rates at the beginning of the pandemic, mostly attributed to the distress experienced due to disruptions in education, socialization, and stability.
– People who are un- and under-employed have a heightened risk of suicide, and with the compounding stressors of the pandemic are especially vulnerable to mental distress and suicidal ideation. Job loss can lead to increased depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Adults with job loss or lower incomes during the pandemic reported higher rates of mental illness than those without job or income loss (53% vs. 31%).
– People with mental health conditions experienced an exacerbation of preexisting mental health conditions during the pandemic due to increased isolation, a disruption in psychiatric services, and heightened levels of anxiety.
– People who use substances, and particularly people with alcohol use disorder and people who inject drugs, are are at elevated risk of suicide (10 and 14 times higher risk than the general population, respectively).
This tip sheet gives suggestions for COVID-19-induced stress by providing self-care ideas such as mindfulness and breathing exercises, as well as healthy ways to connect with others.
This webinar discusses how to manage fears and stress during the pandemic, and how to develop new coping strategies during this period of uncertainty.
This webinar from Mental Health America focuses on resiliency, and how to build one’s own resiliency during this difficult time in order to cultivate mental wellbeing.
The Mind on Mental Health Podcast discusses mental health challenges and how to cope with them, with expert input and a focus on COVID-19’s impact on mental health and wellbeing.
Ways to ask for help, free resources
If you are struggling with your mental health, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. It is important to know when to ask for help. It is better to ask earlier, before you are in an emergency situation. Asking for help does not mean you are weak.
Think about a person you trust who you can ask for help if you need it, like a close friend or family member. You can ask a doctor or other health care professional, teachers, a spiritual leader, or a school counselor for help.
– Here is some advice for young people on how and when to ask for help
– You can find a list of ideas for who to reach out to for help, and how to go about doing so if you are unsure, here
Below are free and confidential call and texting resources,
– The National Suicide Prevention Hotline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. You don’t need to be actively contemplating suicide to call this number – you can call if you have a friend in need, if you are having dark thoughts, or if you just need some support. Provides support in English and Spanish.
– If you are more comfortable texting, the Crisis Text Line serves anyone, in any type of crisis, by providing access to free, 24/7 support via text.
– It can be hard to reach out to people to tell them you need help. The Not OK App allows you to pre-select up to 5 contacts, and when you press a button in the app, it will text those contacts with your location and a message that says “Hey, I’m not OK. Please call me, text me, or come find me.”
– Asian LifeNet Hotline is a suicide prevention hotline providing services in Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, and Fujianese
While self-harm is not the same as suicide or suicidality, it can be related. Resources for those who are contemplating or struggling with self-harm can be found here:
– You can also download Calm Harm, an app to help you resist or manage the urge to self harm
Self care, stigma, and being a good ally
You are not defined by your mental health illness or the challenges you face with your mental health. Stigma can make people reluctant to seek help, and can also make them feel more alone. We must eliminate stigma associated with mental health.
– You can find resources on how to address mental health stigma here
Here are some resources for Survivors of suicide:
– A Journey Toward Health and Hope: Your Handbook for Recovery After a Suicide Attempt is a book by SAMHSA that guides people through the first steps toward recovery and a hopeful future after a suicide attempt. It includes personal stories from survivors, and strategies for recovery, such as re-establishing connections and finding a mental health care provider.
– Connections is an online platform where suicide attempt survivors or those who have experienced suicidal thinking can connect with other suicide attempt survivors to receive support and guidance as they embark upon their journey to recovery.
Here are resources for people who love people who complete suicide:
– Different ways to take care of yourself if you are struggling with the loss of someone close to you who has completed suicide.
– How to support someone who has lost a loved one to suicide.
– Friends for Survival is an organization dedicated to offering support services those who have lost a loved one, including a Suicide Loss Helpline at 1(800) 646-7322, which is available from 9am-9pm for seven days a week.
Even if you are not experiencing difficulties with your own mental health, it is important to be an ally to those who are. Educate yourself about signs and symptoms of suicidality and other common mental health conditions so that you can identify warning signs.
– While not a diagnostic resource, some common signs of suicidality to be aware of can be found here
– Listen with empathy and ask your friends and family how you can help if they are struggling. Some good practices when talking with individuals who are experiencing suicidality can be found here
– Be mindful of your language (avoid stigmatizing terms like ‘crazy’ or ‘insane’)
Helping people with mental health conditions can be draining; it is important to take care of your own mental health as you support others (refer to the self care resources above)
– A list of meditation and mindfulness apps (note, while most apps have a free version, many also have subscriptions/paid options)
A locator to help you find behavioral health treatment in your area can be found here
A special thank you to our interns Julianne Hopper and Jack McGinn for their contributions to this publication.