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What does the purple ribbon mean suicide?

The color purple has become a powerful symbol representing suicide awareness and prevention. The purple ribbon is used to promote awareness of suicide prevention, show support for those affected by suicide, and to reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues and suicide.

History of the Purple Ribbon

The purple ribbon was first used to represent suicide prevention in 1998. It was created by the parents of a 17-year-old boy who died by suicide. They wanted to honor their son and bring more attention to this important issue, so they tied purple ribbons on their truck antennas. Purple was selected because it is the color of courage, bravery and perseverance.

This grassroots effort soon gained momentum. More people began wearing and distributing purple ribbons to show compassion for those affected by suicide and support for suicide prevention. Over the years, the purple ribbon has become an internationally recognized symbol for suicide awareness.

Significance of the Color Purple

There are several reasons why purple was chosen as the color to represent suicide awareness and prevention:

  • Purple is a blend of red and blue. Red represents courage, strength and bravery. Blue represents wisdom, faith and truth. Purple embodies the best attributes of both colors.
  • Purple is associated with royalty and nobility. It symbolizes honor, dignity and pride.
  • In some cultures, purple is the color of mourning and remembrance.
  • Purple represents magic, mystery and spirituality in some traditions. It inspires compassion, imagination and creativity.
  • The color purple is associated with courage, survival and perseverance. It honors those who have struggled and overcome adversity.

Together, these meanings and associations make purple an appropriate representation of the fight to prevent suicide and the journey to recovery.

When the Purple Ribbon is Used

The purple ribbon is displayed year-round to promote ongoing awareness, but it is especially prominent during National Suicide Prevention Week in the United States and Canada. This week begins on the Sunday before World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10th.

People wear purple ribbons and purple awareness bracelets during this week to honor those lost to suicide, support survivors of suicide loss and attempted suicide, and to show commitment to prevention efforts. Purple lights illuminate prominent buildings and landmarks. Purple flags wave. People wear purple clothing and accessories.

The color purple will be visible on college campuses, churches, community centers, businesses and homes. Purple ribbons are displayed at suicide awareness events such as memorial walks, rallies, conferences, concerts and vigils.

Who Supports the Purple Ribbon?

Many different groups and organizations use the purple ribbon to promote suicide awareness, including:

  • Mental health organizations
  • Crisis centers and hotlines
  • Hospitals and healthcare providers
  • Schools and universities
  • Support groups for suicide loss survivors
  • Faith-based organizations
  • Community outreach programs
  • National and local advocacy groups
  • Businesses
  • Individuals whose lives have been impacted by suicide

Purple Ribbon Meaning and Symbolism

For those displaying and wearing the purple ribbon, it represents:

  • Remembering loved ones lost and honoring survivors
  • Hope that increased awareness and education can prevent suicide
  • Reducing stigma surrounding mental illness and suicidal thoughts
  • Promoting help-seeking behavior and treatment
  • Showing compassion for the struggles that can lead to suicide
  • Celebrating those who overcome and recover from mental health challenges

Key Facts About Suicide and Prevention

Below are some key facts about suicide and suicide prevention efforts:

Topic Facts
Global impact – Over 800,000 people die by suicide each year worldwide
– Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for ages 15-29
United States – ~47,000 deaths by suicide in 2019
– Single day high of 132 deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic
Groups at higher risk – Men
– LGBTQ+ individuals
– Those with mental health conditions
– American Indians/Alaska Natives
Reducing risk – Promoting wellness and connectedness
– Increasing access to mental healthcare
– Safety planning and means reduction
Warning signs – Talking about death/suicide
– Extreme mood swings
– Withdrawing from others
– Looking for ways to kill oneself
What to do – Listen with compassion
– Ask directly about suicide
– Remove means like guns or pills
– Get the person to a doctor or crisis line

This data highlights key trends, at-risk groups, and ways we can all help prevent suicide.

Featured Organizations for Suicide Prevention

Many excellent organizations are working to raise awareness about suicide and provide education, outreach, advocacy and support. Here are a few of the leading groups:

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)

AFSP aims to reverse the rising rate of suicide through:

  • Advocating for public policies and funding for research and prevention
  • Educating the public about risk factors and warning signs
  • Promoting suicide prevention training
  • Supporting survivors of suicide loss
  • Funding scientific research into suicide and prevention

They organize public walks and awareness events and provide extensive resources on their website.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

The Lifeline provides free, 24/7 confidential support by phone or chat to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. People can call 1-800-273-8255 or chat online at

The Lifeline has over 200 crisis centers across the United States. They help thousands of people every day.

The Trevor Project

The Trevor Project focuses on crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBTQ+ youth. Services include:

  • A 24/7 phone lifeline, chat and text crisis services
  • TrevorSpace – an online peer support community
  • Advocacy for LGBTQ+ inclusive public policies and laws
  • Education programs for youth-serving organizations

The Trevor Project provides vital support to an especially vulnerable group.

Active Minds

Active Minds is an organization that empowers students to be leaders in mental health advocacy. They provide:

  • Award-winning mental health resources and curricula
  • Leadership opportunities for students
  • Strategies for changing the campus culture around mental health
  • Support to students passionate about mental health

Active Minds has hundreds of chapters on high school and college campuses.

Suicide Prevention Programs and Initiatives

Here are some examples of effective suicide prevention programs and initiatives:

Zero Suicide

A comprehensive approach for healthcare systems to prevent suicides among patients in their care. It provides staff training and tools to identify those at risk and get them specialized care.

The Air Force Suicide Prevention Program

A multi-faceted strategy reduced suicides among Air Force personnel by one-third over 6 years. Components include leadership engagement, early intervention, and social support.

Crisis Text Line

A free, 24/7 text message service for those in crisis. Texters are connected with trained crisis counselors. The service uses data science to detect trends and guide resources to those most at risk.

CALM: Counseling on Access to Lethal Means

A free training program to help providers counsel patients and families on limiting access to guns, medications, and other lethal means when someone is suicidal.

Native Connections

A SAMHSA-funded suicide prevention initiative tailored for American Indian and Alaska Native youth. It uses best practices in youth engagement, social media, and community readiness development.

How You Can Support the Cause

Every individual can play a role in suicide prevention. Here are some tips for supporting the cause all year long:

  • Wear a purple ribbon to stimulate conversation and show support.
  • Share facts, resources, and stories on social media to raise awareness.
  • Talk openly about mental health struggles and suicide. Fight stigma.
  • If you are struggling, reach out for help. Call the Lifeline if needed.
  • Listen compassionately if you are concerned about a loved one.
  • Get training in mental health first aid, suicide prevention skills or crisis management.
  • Donate to or volunteer with a prevention organization.
  • Contact elected officials to advocate for policies and funding for prevention programs.
  • Participate in awareness events like Out of the Darkness community walks.

The Purple Ribbon Represents Hope

The color purple glows as a beacon of hope that suicide is preventable, recovery is possible, and those who have struggled or fallen are not forgotten. It inspires action: to illuminate the problem, empower change, and vision a world where help and hope is available for all.

The purple ribbon means that the fight for life continues, and that in unity there is strength. Suicide prevention is everyone’s responsibility. The purple ribbon represents a shared commitment to building communities of awareness, connection and care.


The purple ribbon is an internationally recognized symbol for suicide prevention. It honors those lost to suicide, supports those bereaved or afflicted, and unites people committed to saving lives. Purple represents courage, wisdom, spirituality and perseverance. Organizations, events and individuals display the purple ribbon to raise awareness, reduce stigma, and show caring for those impacted by suicide. We all have a role to play in suicide prevention. The purple ribbon means you are not alone and there is hope.