Suicide Prevention Month

September is Suicide Prevention Month and this touches so many people around the world. You could be someone that survived an attempt, lost a family member, lost a friend, someone still struggling, or be an ally to the mental health community. This is so important.

Suicide rates are not only alarming in the U.S. There are over 800,000 completed suicides globally each year.

Mental Health is being taken more and more seriously each year which is great, but there is still work to do. For example, take health insurance. Mental health notoriously has the worst coverage for insurances – physical health and mental health should have the same kind of coverage. I can’t tell you how much of a pain it is finding therapists and psychiatrists. Of course some insurances are much better than others, but overall mental health is the lowest of the totem pole.

However, more and more statistics are being shared and known, like:

  • It is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S
  • There are about 127 suicide deaths per day in the U.S
  • Every 40 seconds, someone dies by suicide

But what about risk/warning signs? Many of these are known – but I feel like they are still overlooked when it is happening to someone you know.

For instance, you may know warning signs include:

  • depression, anxiety, loss of interest, irritability, humiliation/shame, agitation/anger, relief/sudden improvement
  • increased use of alcohol/drugs, isolation, withdrawing from activities, sleeping too much or too little, giving away possessions, aggression, fatigue
  • talking about being a burden to others, feeling trapped/hopeless, having unbearable pain

And that risk factors include:

  • having a family history of suicide, past attempts, having gone through childhood abuse, trauma, or negligence
  • access to lethal means like firearms and drugs, prolonged stress, stressful life events (e.g. divorce, loss of employment, financial crisis, other life transitions), exposure to other suicides or to graphic/sensationalized suicides
  • mental health conditions, serious physical health conditions including pain, traumatic brain injury

But what happens when some of these are present in someone you know? Many times, they are overlooked. “This person wouldn’t feel that way, they seem so happy. I know them, they aren’t like that.” Or “yeah but they wouldn’t take their own life.” You don’t know that.

Although all these statistics and facts are available and becoming much more known, it still seems people struggle to apply them to someone in their own life. Honestly, this is understandable because you never think you’ll lose someone that way, no matter how much you may know about their mental health or not.

I know I was young when I lost my father and I knew he was sick, but I would have never seen it coming that I would lose him to suicide. Even if it happened today with me being 25 years old, I still wouldn’t have seen it coming. It is so important to be aware and take people seriously and be supportive. Check in, reach out.

It is also so important to pay attention to yourself. Listen your your mind and listen to your body. There is support out there.

And for survivors, please try to ease yourself of guilt. This is something I still struggle with. Things may not go how we picture them even if the risks, warning signs, and support for them are there.

It makes me proud to see all of the mental health and suicide awareness being shared so openly now. It makes me proud how much research there is and how many organizations there are. It makes me proud to be a part of this community. I struggle with my own mental health issues but I am so grateful for the love and support that I have.

I miss my father every second of every day. I hope less and less people lose the ones they love and I hope less and less people are part of these statistics. I am so grateful for all of the work so many are doing to prevent as many suicides as we can. I look forward to seeing these numbers go down instead of increasing. I know that day will come.

-Riley

Sources: Hope for the Day, Suicide Statistics – AFSP, Risk Factors and Warning Signs – AFSP

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