Suicide Prevention Month: 2020

September is National Suicide Prevention Month (NSPM). Though significant each year, 2020 is a year in which NSPM should be amplified. With a global pandemic, racial injustices, and a presidential election, we all face many stressors. Mental health education needs to be a priority now more than ever.

The Jason Foundation, a leading organization in suicide awareness and prevention, calls suicide “The ‘Silent Epidemic.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey states that 36.7% of high school adolescents felt sad or hopeless (for at least 2 weeks). 18.8% of adolescents seriously contemplated suicide, and 15.7% made a plan. To put this into perspective, that is almost one out of five kids who have contemplated suicide. If this is something that so many people are going through, why is there silence around it?

Talking about mental health and suicide is uncomfortable. There is an undeniable stigma surrounding it, which is exacerbated  by lack of education. The only way to get over this block is to submerge yourself in discomfort. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Dr. Bob Rosen writes, “You may steer clear of difficult conversations at home and at work. Afraid of conflict, you may fail to challenge yourself or others, to greater performance and a better life.” You cannot grow without overcoming challenges. 

So, how do we combat this uncomfortable stigma? The National Alliance on Mental Illness has published an article titled “9 Ways to Fight Mental Health Stigma”. Below are the three ways you can begin that effort today.

“Talk Openly About Mental Health”

Normalize mental health care. Share resources for those in need. Remember not to only talk, but to listen. It’s important to note that there is no need to compare struggles or say that you know how they feel. No two traumas are the same. 

“Educate Yourself And Others” 

The best way to get direct answers is to talk to your healthcare providers. But, for a simpler route, you can read texts from trusted sources. When educating others, if you ever note in a conversation that someone may be portraying something regarding mental health incorrectly, take a moment to explain to them why what they are saying is incorrect. It is also good to refer them to more sources if need be. 

“Be Conscious Of Language”

Language is a sensitive area in mental health. It’s important to make sure you are not downplaying or gaslighting someone’s experience when talking to them. Avoid sayings such as, “it’s not that bad”. Another important thing to do is to stop using mental health terminology as adjectives. For example, “x is so OCD”, or “x is so bipolar”. You wouldn’t use physical health terminology as an adjective, so why use mental?

Remember, don’t just take care of others, but take care of yourself too. You cannot pour from an empty cup. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help to loved ones, or refer to the help lines listed below.

911 (ask for crisis intervention trained officer)

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

DuPage County Health Department 630-627-1700