This year, we recognize National Suicide Prevention week from Sept. 5-11, 2021. September is also recognized as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month each year. The goals of this week and month of recognition are to help alleviate the stigma too often associated with suicide and mental health conditions, and to help spread awareness of resources that can help those who are struggling with their mental health or suicidal thoughts.
Our nation has made great strides in recognizing the importance of mental health and advancing the ways in which people can take care of their mental health to get help when they need it. But there are still many misconceptions about depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, personality disorders or other mental health conditions. Learning more about these conditions and how they can be identified and treated is essential to reducing the devastating effects they can have on those who suffer and their loved ones.
Educating yourself about mental health conditions can help you gain compassion for those around you who may be affected and can help you better understand how to interact with those struggling. It is also helpful to learn how to respond to someone who shares with you they are having a mental health crisis, and to be aware of the resources to which you can direct that person to get the help they need.
Listening is the most important step, followed by responding in a way that indicates you take what that person said seriously and that you care. Professionals suggest letting the person express their thoughts and feelings, even if it is very hard to hear, and letting them know they are not alone in feeling this way. Let them know there are ways to get help and you are willing to assist them in getting help.
Suicide prevention also involves learning about the warning signs of someone in a mental health crisis or who may be exhibiting suicidal ideation or behaviors. Behaviors such as withdrawing from friends, family or activities; exhibiting emotions of anger or hopelessness; abusing drugs or alcohol; engaging in reckless behavior; giving extravagant gifts or giving away possessions suddenly and seemingly without reason; or expressing love for friends or family in an unusual or unexpected way can all be signs of a person who may be struggling with thoughts of suicide or experiencing a mental health crisis. If you notice these behaviors in a loved one, check in with them and let them know you care about them and ask how they are doing and what kind of feelings they are experiencing. If signs of suicide persist or worsen, taking further steps to keep that person safe are important -- including staying with them if self-harm seems imminent, eliminating access to instruments of self-harm, and referring them to suicide crisis hotlines or mental health professionals. You can suggest seeing a professional or making a hotline call together.
It is also important to be cognizant of how we speak about mental health conditions and suicide. Eliminating casual use of mental health or suicide terms helps to affirm these are serious issues many people face that are not to be taken lightly. Individuals who have mental health diagnoses or who may be contemplating suicide may feel they would not be taken seriously if they shared their struggles when they hear comments that reduce their suffering to a joke or label.
There are many other ways to help prevent suicide and promote mental health on a larger scale. You can donate to a suicide prevention organization, or volunteer to a hotline or a crisis center. You can attend events that address suicide and mental health issues to learn more about how to recognize warning signs and better understand what a depressed or suicidal person is feeling. There are many reading materials, videos, and resources to help you educate yourself as well. For more information, and to learn how you can help spread awareness you can check out websites such as:
Everyone deserves to live a healthy and happy life, and mental health is an essential part of that. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, there is hope and there are many resources available to get help. Spread awareness of those resources and take steps to help make the world a safer and more comfortable place for everyone no matter what they may be going through.