Mental Health Spotlight: Suicide Awareness & Prevention

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. All month, mental health advocates, prevention organizations, survivors, allies and community members unite to promote suicide prevention awareness. This subject has been the focus of three Spotlights that I have previously presented. It’s that important as this will be number four.

Unfortunately, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, the suicide rate in our country has risen sharply between 1999 and 2016. The report was released on June 7, 2018 and found an increase across all states except one, Nevada, which recorded a decline of 1% but remains higher overall than the national average. Tucked away in those shocking statistics is perhaps the most sobering: In more than half of all deaths in 27 states, the people had no known mental health condition when they ended their lives.

Although there were increases across the board among age, gender, race and ethnicity, one demographic stood out with a sharp increase. The rise in the rates of death by suicide from 2000 to 2016, the increase was significantly larger for females, increasing by 21 percent for boys and men, compared with 50 percent for girls and women. For females between the ages of 45 and 64, the suicide rate increased by 60 percent.

Nearly 45,000 suicides occurred in the United States in 2016, more than twice the number of homicides, making it the 10th-leading cause of death. Among people ages 15 to 34, suicide is the second-leading cause of death.

As I mentioned in my July Spotlight, this is a perfect time to reach out to that person in your social circle that may be hurting. Remember that statistic at the beginning of this article, more than 50% of suicides in 27 states had NO previous mental health diagnosis. This disease strike fast and the effects are lasting on all of us who are left behind. Children may be raised without a parent, your favorite sibling my now just be an empty chair at Thanksgiving, your best fishing buddy my no longer be available on those long weekends. Simply because we are too beholden to stigma and don’t have the courage for fear of exasperating a situation. Since it’s awareness month, read up on it a little. Many times, people don’t know how to ask for help or even realize they need it. It’s simply easier to push it aside. Unfortunately, as these statistics illustrate, there is a grave cost.

World Suicide Prevention Day is September 10th. It’s a time to remember those affected by suicide, to raise awareness, and to focus efforts on directing treatment to those who need it most. National Suicide Prevention Week is the Monday through Sunday surrounding World Suicide Prevention Day.

It’s a time to share resources and stories, as well as promote suicide prevention awareness.

BREAKING NEWS: On August 14, 2018, H.R. 2345: National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act of 2018 was enacted. This Act will create a simple three-digit hotline number (like 911) for a NATIONAL suicide hotline.

This is a pretty big deal, in my humble opinion, as it is far easier to remember a three-digit number than the long one that is in existence now. I will update when I hear what the number will be. Currently, a committee will be formed to work with the FCC to determine what the number will be. Final form will follow the existing Number-1-1 format.

NEED HELP? IN THE U.S., CALL 1-800-273-8255 FOR THE NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE.

*Mental Health Spotlight is an opinion based column. Any resources mentioned are provided for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the specialized training and professional judgment of a health care or mental health care professional.

Written by Fred Terling for Pennsylvania Bridges