The Importance of Suicide Prevention and Recovery Services

September 2, 2021

As National Suicide Prevention Month, September offers numerous opportunities to reflect on the terrible impact of suicide and the behavioral health continuum's role in preventing it – including Suicide Prevention Awareness Week (September 6–12) and World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10). Before the COVID-19 pandemic, suicide was the tenth leading cause of death in the United States and the second leading cause among youth and young adults.1 Suicide is also a growing problem, up from 29,199 in 1999 (10.5 deaths per 100,000 people) to 47,511 in 2019 (14.5 per 100,000).2 Yet, the number of suicides declined from 2018 to 2019, suggesting that prevention can make an impact. We must remember our ability to make a difference, even if deaths from suicide increased in 2020.

Preventing suicide requires attention from across a wide number of disciplines, including substance use prevention. Substance use significantly increases the risk of suicide3 and can also be the method of death (via overdose). Suicide is also a leading cause of death among people who misuse substances. The lifetime risk of suicide among people with a substance use disorder is 5.8 times higher than the risk among those who do not have a disorder.4 Substance use prevention professionals can help address this urgent public health need by understanding the connections between substance use and suicide and working directly with suicide prevention stakeholders.

September is also National Recovery Month, an opportunity to publicize the vital role of treatment and recovery support services in helping people with substance use or mental health disorders lead healthy and rewarding lives.5 Behavioral health issues, such as suicidal ideation, rarely occur in a vacuum. Substance use prevention professionals and all behavioral health stakeholders must work to ensure that we create trauma-informed, recovery-orientated systems of care for the individuals and families we serve, including people at risk for suicide.

Prevention training and technical assistance on these and other topics are available through the Central East Prevention Technology Transfer Center (PTTC). The Central East PTTC has created a Suicide Prevention Resource Guide for the region, and the SAMHSA-funded Suicide Prevention Resource Center offers a wide variety of information. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 and provides free, confidential support to those in need.


  1. National Institute of Mental Health (2019). Suicide.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020). Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiological Research. Underlying Cause of Death Results-2018.
  3. SAMSHA (2016). Substance Use and Suicide: A Nexus Requiring a Public Health Approach. In Brief.
  4. Miller, K., Hitschfeld, M., Lineberry, T., Palmer, B. (2016). How Does Active Substance Use at Psychiatric Admission Impact Suicide Risk and Hospital Length-of-Stay? Journal of Addictive Diseases 35(4), 291-297.
  5. SAMHSA (2020). National Recovery Month. Available at
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