September is National Suicide Prevention Month and this week is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Week, both serving as important reminders that help is out there.
Take a moment and ask yourself if you either know someone, or someone you know, knows someone who lost their life to suicide. If that answer is “yes,” this epidemic has impacted you personally in some way.
"While suicide prevention is important to address year-round, Suicide Prevention Awareness Month provides a dedicated time to come together with collective passion and strength around a difficult topic. The truth is, we can all benefit from honest conversations about mental health conditions and suicide, because just one conversation can change a life," states the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention notes the added toll the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is playing on mental health, making it "more important than ever that we be there for each other and take steps to prevent suicide."
Let’s go over some facts about suicide. It is a public health concern, according to the National Institute, responsible for 48,000 deaths in 2018. It was the 10th leading cause of death that year. It was the second leading cause of death of individuals between the ages 10-34, and the fourth leading cause of death for ages 35-54. Over a 20-year period, from 1999-2018, suicides increased 35 percent, from 10.5 per 100,000 to 14.2 per 100,000.
NAMI defines holding a negative view of someone just because they have a mental illness as a stigma. It also defines a stigma as a feeling of shame or judgment from someone else, or an internal feeling of confusing feeling bad with being bad. Stigma creates several challenges for those living with a mental health condition, creating in them a sense of isolation, blame and secrecy.
The NAMI website lists potential warning signs of suicide, including increased alcohol and drug abuse, aggressive behavior, withdrawing from loved ones and the community, dramatic mood swings and impulsive or reckless behavior.
The site also lists actions such as collecting and saving pills, buying a weapon, giving away possessions, organizing personal papers and paying off debts and saying goodbye to loved ones as suicidal behaviors.
"Suicidal behaviors are a psychiatric emergency. If you or a loved one starts to take any of these steps, seek immediate help from a health care provider or call 911," the NAMI website states.
According to NAMI, family and friends who find a loved one in a crisis can approach the situation by talking openly and honestly, asking questions and offering support. NAMI recommends removing guns, knives or pill stockpiles.
"If your friend or family member struggles with suicidal ideation day-to-day, let them know that they can talk with you about what they’re going through. Make sure that you adopt an open and compassionate mindset when they’re talking," the NAMI website states.
The first step in getting help is a phone call away.
The NAMI website states that if you or are in an emergency situation or know of someone else who is, call 911 immediately. Another avenue for help is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Depression and anxiety are both serious issues. The statistics are included in this editorial. This year is nothing like most years. People have lost their jobs and in some cases have lost their livelihoods. This is a difficult time for a lot of people in our country right now.
If you are struggling with a mental illness, please know that you are not alone. Resources are available for everyone. With things the way they are now, we all should be checking in on our friends and loved ones. Facing this tough problem without support is a losing battle.