Destigmatizing mental health: September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

Franklin County

COLUMBUS (WCMH) – September is being hailed a month to talk about a stigmatized topic and often preventable public health issue: suicide.

CALL THE SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) OR TEXT 741-741 FOR HELP 24/7.

This week begins National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Mental health advocates hope to shift public perception and raise awareness about available resources for those struggling with suicidal thoughts.

“That is one thing we need to address as a community, is to reduce the stigma by having conversations about it more often,” said Michelle Vargas from the Franklin County Suicide Prevention Coalition.

The Franklin County Coroner’s Office recently released 2020 statistics about suicide. The report found death by suicide was down 5% as a whole, but it’s rising in certain groups like young people, senior citizens and African Americans. Overall, the highest rate occurred in the 20-24 year old age group.

Vargas explained many are watching 2021 with concern, as stress, isolation and disruption caused by the pandemic continue to plague much of the world.

“A lot of experts have been saying to really focus suicide prevention efforts right now on this transitional period back to school and back to work,” she said.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) lists the following information about how to spot risk factors for suicide.

Here are a few other warning signs of suicide:

  • Increased alcohol and drug use
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Withdrawal from friends, family and community
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Impulsive or reckless behavior

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:

  • Collecting and saving pills or buying a weapon
  • Giving away possessions
  • Tying up loose ends, like organizing personal papers or paying off debts
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family

Additionally, Vargas said some of the warning signs may be visible on social media.

“You might not have seen someone for more than a year and you might see a concerning post on social media where someone is talking about suicide,” she said.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline encourages anyone concerned about a loved one to take the following steps:

  • Ask: Research shows people who are having thoughts of suicide feel relief when someone asks after them in a caring way. Findings suggest acknowledging and talking about suicide may reduce rather than increase suicidal ideation.
  • Be There: Individuals are more likely to feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful after speaking to someone who listens without judgment.
  • Keep Them Safe: A number of studies have indicated that when lethal means are made less available or less deadly, suicide rates by that method decline, and frequently suicide rates overall decline.
  • Help Them Stay Connected: Studies indicate that helping someone at risk create a network of resources and individuals for support and safety can help them take positive action and reduce feelings of hopelessness.
  • Follow-Up: Studies have also shown that brief, low cost intervention and supportive, ongoing contact may be an important part of suicide prevention, especially for individuals after they have been discharged from hospitals or care services.

Many suicides can be prevented by removing access to lethal weapons, such as firearms, from those who may be at risk. Store It Safe (https://ohioaap.org/storeitsafe) and the Community Safety Project (https://losscs.org/community-safety-project/) offer more information about safe firearm storage.
You can find more local mental health services by clicking on this link for Mental Health America of Ohio.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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