The Real Struggles: Talking About Suicide Among People with Disabilities

black and white photo of a young white man with a blue square containing the text, "988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline" over a back and white background

Two years ago on August 9th, my family lost a loved one to suicide. He was a son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin and soon to be father.  While he was not a person with a disability, he had addiction and mental health issues.  He received a lot of support and still the result was tragic.  But what about the disability community? Are they heard and supported?  Let’s talk about the real struggles in this community about suicide.  I dedicate this blog to my nephew Spencer, may his death never be in vain.

Suicide is a topic that is hard to discuss, especially when it comes to people with disabilities. People with disabilities have challenges and struggles that increase their risk of suicide. We need to have open and honest conversations about this issue to raise awareness and save lives. How can we work together to prevent these tragedies?

People with disabilities face many challenges that can go unnoticed by society. Here are a few:

  1. Social Isolation: Being isolated leads to feeling lonely, sad, and hopeless. This can increase the risk of suicidal thoughts.
  2. Discrimination and Stigma: Negative stereotypes and misconceptions can create barriers to social acceptance and inclusion. This battle against discrimination can take a toll on mental health.
  3. Inadequate Mental Health Support: Access to mental health support is essential for everyone, including people with disabilities. The healthcare system can fall short in providing good mental health support.

The reality of suicide within the disability community:

The reality is that suicide rates within the disability community are alarmingly high. It is important to talk about the reality of suicide for the disabled community to help save lives.

Higher Risk:

People with disabilities have a high risk of suicidal thoughts and attempts compared to the general population. Feelings of:

  • being alone,
  • having limited opportunities,
  • discrimination,
  • and needed mental health support all add to this risk.

Invisible Struggles:

The struggles faced by people with disabilities are often invisible to others. This can increase feelings of being alone. This makes it even more difficult for individuals to reach out for help when they need it.

Prevention Strategies:

Let’s raise awareness, increase mental health support, and foster inclusive and accepting communities. This can create a society that supports and empowers individuals with disabilities.

Breaking the silence, starting the conversation:

To address the issue of suicide within the disability community start a conversation. By discussing this topic, we can raise awareness and provide support to those who need it most.

Empowering Individuals:

Encourage individuals with disabilities to share their experiences and stories. By giving them a platform to speak out, we can amplify their voices and shed light on the challenges they face. This can help to break down barriers and foster a sense of community and support.

Creating Support Networks:

Building support networks within the community is essential for preventing suicide. By connecting individuals with their family, friends and neighbors we can create a space for support. These connections can provide a support system for people with mental health issues.

Providing support and resources:

Remember that every individual deserves access to the support they need to live a life free from despair and hopelessness. Here are some key ways in which support and resources can be provided:

Accessible Mental Health Services:

Ensure that mental health services are accessible to individuals with disabilities. This should include:

  • physically accessibility,
  • providing support for individuals with communication or sensory challenges,
  • mental health professionals trained to understand the unique needs of individuals with disabilities.

Crisis Hotlines and Helplines:

Pennsylvania offers it’s 988 suicide and crisis hotline. Someone is available at all times to help. Call or text 988, or visit the website at

Training for Caregivers and Support Workers:

Caregivers and support workers play a crucial role in the lives of individuals with disabilities. Providing appropriate training on mental health, suicide prevention, and support is essential. Training can help them with warning signs, times of crisis, and connect individuals to resources.

Creating a safe space for open discussions:

Creating a safe space for open discussions about suicide is needed to address this issue and provide support. Open dialogue allows individuals to share their feelings and connection within the community. Here are some steps towards creating a safe space for open discussions:

Sensitivity and Language Awareness:

Creating a safe space also involves promoting sensitivity and awareness of appropriate language. Educating people about the impact of language and the use of person-first language can help promote discussion.

Accessible Communication Options:

Accessible communication options are needed for individuals to take part in open discussions. This includes individuals with sensory or communication impairments using:

  • sign language interpreters,
  • captions,
  • braille materials,
  • assistive technologies.

Guidelines and Ground Rules:

To maintain a safe space, create guidelines and ground rules for discussions. These guidelines should emphasize respect, confidentiality, and active listening.

Together we can make a difference:

Addressing suicide among people with disabilities requires effort and commitment.  By coming together, we can reduce the rates of suicide and improve mental health well-being. Every effort, no matter how small, can make a meaningful difference in the lives of those affected. Together, we can create a society that values and supports the mental health of all individuals, regardless of our abilities.