September is Suicide Prevention Month
by Sharon Black, MAM, MSW, LISW-CP/S
Behavioral Health Consultant Manager
Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is an opportunity to provide hope. Suicide prevention is everyone’s job. It’s the role of faith-based communities, individuals, groups, organizations, and communities. We all must spread awareness, offer hope, and know that recovery is possible.
Every 12 minutes, someone’s brother, sister, mother, dad, or loved one dies from suicide in the United States. Further, the suicide rate for individuals with serious mental illness and mood disorders, such as depression or bipolar disorder, is 25 times that of the general public.
Mental disorders and emotional distress are common in the United States, with one in five adults having a diagnosable mental disorder. A national survey of Americans found that 18.5 percent of adults (18 or older) experience a mental illness in any one year. This is equivalent to 43.8 million people.
Anyone can have thoughts of suicide regardless of their background. Often, suicide may be the result of an untreated mental health condition.
In many cases, friends and family affected by suicide loss (often called “suicide loss survivors”) are left in the dark. Shame and stigma are contributing factors for individuals not talking openly about their feelings and thoughts. This is unfortunate, because talking about feelings and thoughts is the very thing that can save lives by preventing suicide.
There are things that you can do to help:
- have conversations with your loved ones about suicide prevention
- become an advocate
- know warning signs of suicide
Warning signs include:
- threatening to hurt or kill oneself
- seeking access to means, such as a gun or pills
- talking, writing, or posting on social media about death, dying, or suicide
- feeling hopeless, worthless or a lack of purpose
- acting recklessly or engaging in risky behaviors
- feeling trapped
- having a dramatic change in mood
- withdrawing from family, friends, or society
- increasing alcohol or drug use
HopeHealth is committed to raising awareness, not only throughout the organization, but also in the communities we serve by ensuring staff have the resources to recognize such warning signs and help prevent suicide through training programs such as:
Question Persuade Refer training (QPR) – QPR is designed to reduce suicidal behaviors and save lives by providing innovative, practical, and proven suicide-prevention training. It helps individuals learn how to recognize the warning signs of a suicide crisis, and how to question, persuade, and refer someone to help. QPR helps everyone know what to do in these situations. You do not have to be a mental health professional to effectively assist someone in crisis.
Zero Suicide training – Zero Suicide is an initiative that aims to improve organizational screenings and detection of those at potential risk for suicide. These efforts show suicide deaths for those seen in health care systems could be dramatically reduced by as much as 75 percent through a system-wide approach, according to the Zero Suicide Academy.
Mental Health First Aid training (MHFA) – The MHFA program provided mental health first aid training for HopeHealth staff and providers, as well as agencies and communities across the state. This training was sponsored by the South Carolina Primary Health Care Association to help individuals recognize when a person is in distress and how to intervene appropriately. While not targeting suicide solely, the interventions can certainly help to prevent suicide by assisting those in crisis and helping in a responsive, nonthreatening, and supportive way.
If you or someone else is in crisis, please take advantage of these resources:
- Dial 911 or go to the nearest emergency room
- South Carolina Community Crisis Response and Intervention (24/7): 1.833.364.2274
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (24/7): 1.800.273.8255 or Espanol: 1.888.628.9454
- Crisis text line: Text HELP to 741741
- Suicide Prevent Lifeline online chat: suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat
Sharon Black is the behavioral health consultant manager at HopeHealth. She has a Master of Social Work degree from the University of South Carolina, Columbia, and a Master of Ministry degree from Luther Rice College, Lithonia, Georgia. She is a member of the National Association of Social Work and the Health Minister Association.