September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in Mississippi

Governor Phil Bryant recently signed a proclamation declaring September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, drawing awareness to a public health issue that affects people of all ages and backgrounds.

He was joined by not just representatives from the Department of Mental Health (DMH), but his wife, First Lady Deborah Bryant, who has worked with DMH in suicide prevention efforts in the past. DMH and its partners are dedicated to reducing the frequency of suicide attempts and deaths, and the pain of survivors affected by suicides of loved ones.  Each death by suicide intimately affects at least six other people, with 250,000 people affected throughout the country each year.

“Whether we realize it or not, many of our friends and neighbors have been affected by mental illness or suicide,” DMH Executive Director Diana Mikula said. “By collaborating, sharing resources, and working together towards common goals, we can prevent the tragedy of suicide.”

In Mississippi, suicide is the 12th leading cause of death for people of all ages, but it is the third leading cause of death for young people ages 10 to 24. From 2005 through 2014, 3,790 Mississippians died by suicide, with thousands more friends and family members impacted by those losses.

For many people, the stigma associated with mental illness and suicide discourages people at risk for suicide from seeking help. In releasing the Mississippi Suicide Prevention Plan last year, DMH and its partners demonstrated a further commitment for the further development and implementation of suicide prevention and early intervention activities in communities throughout the state.

One area of focus for prevention and awareness is in the school system. House Bill 263 passed in the 2017 legislative session requires schools to adopt a policy regarding suicide prevention and to require training for all employees. DMH compiled a focus group that recently selected the required training courses that will be available for employees throughout the state in suicide prevention and awareness.

For those concerned about their loved ones, there are a number of factors to look for that can be risks for suicide. A family history of suicide or a family history of abuse can be risk factors. A history of mental illness or alcohol and substance use are other signs to be aware of. If someone is talking about being a burden to others or not having a reason to live, those are signs they may be thinking about suicide. Other signs may be a withdrawal from usual habits or isolation from friends and loved ones.

“No matter what is happening in someone’s life, there are people who care and want to offer help and support to anyone who needs it,” Mikula said. “No one should hesitate to seek help at any time.”

The DMH toll free help line is available 24 hours a day at 1-877-210-8513, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also available at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). To learn more about the state’s Suicide Prevention Plan, visit