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September Is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

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By Dr. Kimberlee Ratliff, Advisor, Active Minds of American Public University Chapter

Every September, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) promotes Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. This is a time when specific resources and stigma-breaking stories are shared in hopes of shedding light on suicide and prevention efforts. This month is an ideal time to learn the warning signs and how to support a family member, friend, or colleague.

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From a broader perspective, preventing suicide involves a community effort. Particularly during this challenging time when the COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted social and financial stability and distanced people from social support, it indeed takes a village to help prevent suicide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published a booklet “Preventing Suicide: A Technical Package of Policy, Programs, and Practices” (Stone, et al., 2017) that includes a number of helpful strategies.

Key strategies include:

  1. Strengthening financial support and housing stabilization by decreasing unemployment, evictions, and foreclosures.
  2. Improving access to and delivery of services, which includes addressing gaps in mental health care in underserved communities.
  3. Creating healthy work and community environments, such as implementing supportive policies, decreasing stigma, encouraging help-seeking behaviors, and reducing access to lethal means for those at risk.
  4. Promoting connectedness through positive modeling and increased community engagement, which can be a challenge during COVID-19 social distancing restrictions.
  5. Teaching coping and problem-solving skills by implementing social-emotional learning in schools and helping parents with parent-child relationship skills.
  6. Identifying and supporting those at risk for suicide, such as individuals who have previously attempted suicide, military and veteran populations, individuals who are institutionalized, and low income and homeless populations.
  7. Decreasing harm and future risk by continuing follow-up efforts, such as counseling and support groups.

The media play a critical role by sharing messages of hope and resilience, reporting on risk and protective factors, and sharing links to helpful resources like the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741 and the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Make a Difference in Suicide Prevention

These strategies invite government entities, employers, schools, the media, and community support systems to work together to make a difference in suicide prevention. This collective effort can lead to systemic change.

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The Active Minds Chapter at American Public University System is a student-led organization, which aims to contribute to this team anti-suicide effort by decreasing its stigma; encouraging help-seeking behaviors; encouraging healthy coping skills; sharing messages of hope and resilience; educating the risk and protective factors; and sharing resources with those who need additional support.

Active Minds Virtual Suicide Prevention Awareness Symposium

For the third year, our Active Minds chapter is hosting a Virtual Suicide Prevention Awareness Symposium to educate the public and the university community about suicide prevention and awareness. This year, we have invited speakers on a variety of topics some of which are new, such as suicide in correctional facilities and suicide in the midst of COVID-19.

We invite you to connect with us for our two-day event featuring the following sessions:

Date Time Topic Speaker
September 24th 12:00-1:00 ET Suicide & COVID-19 Dr. Mary Cooper
1:15-2:15 ET A Guide to Self-Perseverance Dr. Kendra Lowe
2:30-3:30 ET Life is a Tough Teacher Kristen Christy
September 25th 12:00-1:00 ET Suicide in Correctional Facilities Jennifer Cisney Ellers
1:15-2:15 ET Developing a Culture of Caring on Campus Dr. Kimberlee Ratliff
2:30-3:30 ET Survivor Panel Moderated by: Dr. Mary Cooper, Rhiannon Brown, and Jennifer Blazier

Featuring: Active Minds Student Leaders, Bailey Quiroga and Hannah Via; Active Minds Advisor, Dr. Kimberlee Ratliff; and Guest Speakers, Kristen Christy, Dee Lundgren, & Dr. Kendra Lowe

You can register for the symposium at Active Minds of APUS Suicide Prevention Awareness Symposium.

If you or someone you know may be in distress, keep these resources in an easily accessible place. Remember, you are not alone and someone is just a phone call or text away. Reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741 and the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

About the Author: Dr. Kimberlee Ratliff is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Counseling at the University of Puget Sound. She is a former Program Director from American Public University System who founded the Suicide Prevention Symposium three years ago. She earned a B.S. in Psychology, M.Ed. in School Counseling, and an Ed. D. in Counseling Psychology. Kimberlee is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC, WA), a National Certified Counselor (NCC) and a National Certified School Counselor (NCSC). Her research interests include suicide prevention and child and adolescent mental health/wellness. She also serves as an advisor for Active Minds of American Public University and the APUS School Counseling Alumni Network.


Stone, D.M., Holland, K.M., Bartholow, B., Crosby, A.E., Davis, S., and Wilkins, N. (2017). Preventing Suicide: A Technical Package of Policies, Programs, and Practices. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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