What is Yellow September?

Yellow September exists to promote suicide prevention. Why was this color chosen? How important is it to raise awareness of this issue? We'll tell you the answers here.
What is Yellow September?
Leonardo Biolatto

Written and verified by the doctor Leonardo Biolatto.

Last update: 06 December, 2022

Every September 10, World Suicide Prevention Day takes center stage in the public health arena. Supported by the International Association for Suicide Prevention and the World Health Organization (WHO), the day aims to raise awareness of this major problem. But why do we talk about Yellow September?

Apart from the day itself, the initiatives usually extend throughout the month. Various governmental and non-governmental organizations organize programs and plans to spread the idea of suicide prevention. They also provide tools to help people with resources if they are experiencing depression.

This year’s theme for 2022 is: “Creating hope through action.” This phrase for Yellow September commits us all to take action to prevent preventable deaths.

Why does Yellow September exist?

The history of the choice of color and the reason for Yellow September is a painful one. It goes back to 1994, when the program Yellow ribbon (“yellow ribbon” in Spanish) took shape through the action of the family and friends of Mike Emme.

Mike was 17 years old when he took his own life. He was a car buff and used to work on restoring cars. His latest project was a 1968 Ford Mustang that he had found in disrepair.

Mike bought the car, repaired it, and, after restoring it, painted it a vibrant yellow. One day, when his parents returned home, the Mustang was parked outside, but the young man had committed suicide.

Inside the house, the parents found a note that read, “Don’t blame yourselves, Mom and Dad, I love you. Love, Mike, 11:45 p. m.” Unfortunately, the adults had arrived only 7 minutes later, and it was too late to do anything.

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The initiative

At young Mike Emme’s funeral, the entire community was distraught. Several of his friends attended and wanted to comfort the parents, so they asked how they could help.

The parents, with great fortitude, told the other young people the following:

Please don’t kill yourself; get help. -Mother of Mike Emme

Taking that advice, several members of the community put the phrase on yellow papers in memory of Mike’s Mustang. In turn, they wrote down helpline numbers to call when thinking about suicide.

Yellow September had begun, and the papers were growing in number. They were handed out in public offices and taken to schools, young people began to carry them in their backpacks. The color was associated, little by little, with the possibility of preventing such a tragic event as suicide.

A yellow ribbon for Yellow September
The initiative expanded, from the United States, taking the color yellow to raise awareness around the world.

Some relevant data on suicide

According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), there are 703,000 people in the world who take their own lives every year. With the added seriousness that it is already the fourth leading cause of death in the group of young people between 15 and 29 years of age.

In the United States, for example, the figures are alarming. It is the second leading cause of death among 10-34-year-olds, with an approximate frequency of 132 suicides every day.

The circulating myth that suicide is a problem only in high-income countries is just that: a myth. In reality, if we take the latest trends, more than 70% of suicides occur in low- and middle-income areas.

But there’s something else that’s often overlooked. The statistics record completed suicides more faithfully than attempted suicides. Behind every person who takes his or her own life, there are several who have tried and failed. And it’s very likely that they will try again.

It’s also a myth that only those who don’t give warnings and do it unannounced commit suicide. Attempts are recognized as risk factors, as there is a high possibility that the person will attempt suicide in the future.

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Can suicide be prevented?

The central idea of Yellow September is to prevent suicide and reduce its incidence. The initiatives aim to raise awareness about the issue so that people have support and someone to turn to in times of greatest distress.

Two situations are recognized in suicidal behavior, and it’s possible to act preventively in both of them. They are the following:

  • Suicide attempt: The person attempts to cause death but fails. There may or may not be an injury after the act.
  • Suicidal ideation: The person has recurrent thoughts about how he/she would commit suicide. He or she may even prepare some things or scenarios in which he or she would take his or her own life.

Recognition of either of these situations calls for immediate action. If it’s a family member or friend who detects it, he or she should do everything possible to ensure that the person receives specialized professional help.

In this regard, almost all countries have developed a suicide prevention agency. There’s usually a telephone number available to call for advice on the steps to take.

Yellow September and suicide prevention
Suicidal ideation is a warning. The person may likely attempt suicide at some point and must be prevented.


Yellow September recognizes that, within preventive actions, government and NGO helplines are key. There, people who are thinking of committing suicide can communicate, as well as family and friends who detect the behavior in those close to them.

The helpline is staffed by people trained to achieve the following objectives:

  • Engage in a supportive and supportive conversation. The person with a suicide attempt is in crisis and needs to be listened to and talked to appropriately.
  • Offer concrete help. The telephone operator will guide, depending on the geographic area, to the armed networks in the territory to contain the person, whether these are public or private institutions.
  • Deliver mental health resources. During the call, the operator can apply some relaxation and active listening techniques to dissuade the person from attempting suicide.
  • Make a psychological appointment. If the case warrants, the helpline can immediately schedule a consultation with a mental health professional.

Yellow September is hope

The yellow of this month of September has to refer us to hope. We can reduce suicide cases in the world.

A simple action, such as distributing yellow papers with helpline numbers, could be enough. This is an act within everyone’s reach that can save lives.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Krishnamurti, Lauren Sealy, et al. “Gender differences in use of suicide crisis hotlines: a scoping review of current literature.” Journal of Public Mental Health (2022).
  • Pirkis, Jane, et al. “Suicide prevention media campaigns: a systematic literature review.” Health Communication 34.4 (2019): 402-414.
  • Sindahl, Trine N., et al. “Texting for help: Processes and impact of text counseling with children and youth with suicide ideation.” Suicide and Life‐Threatening Behavior 49.5 (2019): 1412-1430.
  • Gordon, Joshua A., Shelli Avenevoli, and Jane L. Pearson. “Suicide prevention research priorities in health care.” JAMA psychiatry 77.9 (2020): 885-886.
  • Large, Matthew Michael. “The role of prediction in suicide prevention.” Dialogues in clinical neuroscience (2022).

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.