September is National Suicide Prevention Month — an opportunity to call attention to this serious public health concern. According to the CDC, 1 in 4 adults between ages 18 and 24 has considered suicide in the past month. Suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death in the United States, the second-leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 34 and the fourth-leading cause of death for those between the ages of 35 and 54. Currently Washington ranks death by suicide as the eighth-leading cause of death, and our rates are increasing.
Each and every one of these deaths by suicide profoundly impacts at least six individuals. Each “suicide survivor” has lost someone they care deeply about and struggle to understand why it happened.
These are sobering statistics, but what really resonates with me are the personal stories about individuals in our community who have lost a loved one. Because, not only am I a trained behavioral health professional and clinician by trade, I lost a brother to suicide.
I compel you, our community, to attend to your wellness and self-care, learn about suicide ideation and become empowered to take action.
Attend to your self-care
We all know that eating well, exercising and taking up a hobby are great ways to maintain our mental and physical health. It is also easy for these things to take a back seat while we adjust to the new normal during the pandemic, but it is extremely important to incorporate wellness plans into our daily lives.
One of the most effective ways we can combat behavioral health challenges is by shifting negative thoughts toward altruism and optimism. Think of things you are grateful for, pause to take deep breaths, meditate, seek out beautiful objects or views around you — there are many! The more you practice these exercises, the quicker they will become habit.
Lead conversations with compassion.
Send a note to the friend you haven’t heard from in a while. Support someone and show the people around you compassion. Depression is not always expressed by crying, but also by being quieter than usual, less engaged, acting out of character, eating more or eating less. Create a space where it is safe for individuals to feel emotions and listen.
There is still a powerful stigma attached to mental illness and suicide. Communities and families often don’t know what to say or how to ask for help as it relates to support and resources. Ways to fight stigma include learning to talk openly about mental health, being conscious of language, encouraging equity between physical and mental health care, showing compassion for those with behavioral health challenges, and choosing empowerment over shame.
Talk to a professional, call crisis line
There are many behavioral health professionals in the community ready and able to help you work through what you are experiencing, including Comprehensive Healthcare. It is also important to remember crisis services are free and available 24/7, simply call 800-572-8122. I also suggest saving that number in your phone.
Lastly, to someone who is struggling right now, please know that you are not alone and that it is possible to move past the pain you are feeling and to once again feel joy.
That is the beauty of behavioral health recovery — there is hope. Courage is critical, but we, your community, your family, and your neighbor, urge you to be cognizant of your emotions and to reach out for support.
We stand with you in this challenging time and together we will create resilient, more vibrant communities.