With every second that passes we have a choice to continue with the status quo and disregard mental health or we can choose to be bold and rise above the stigma (hint hint Bold is beautiful!). Regardless of race, economic class, or gender one out of every five Americans will suffer from a mental illness at least once in their lifetime. Would you know what to do if that someone was your mother, father, child, friend? In elementary we are taught what to do if we were ever to catch on fire (stop, drop, and roll). If there is an emergency we are taught to dial 911. Yet, if your friend just told you they wrote a suicide note and made you pinky swear not to tell anyone, what would you do? Would you tell? Who would you call? Scenarios like this play out everyday in our schools and yes, even playgrounds. Did you know that the fastest growing age group for suicde are 10-14 year olds? A study by Jean Twenge has found that five times as many youth suffer from depression and anxiety than youth their same age during the Great depression (Source: Study: Youth now have more mental health issues). Sadly many of these young individuals will go years without being diagnosed or ever seeing a mental health professional. If left untreated, the quality of life can severly diminish and could even lead to homelessness (it is estimated that over 200,000 homeless have a mental illness), incarceration (people with an untreated mental illness spend twice as much time than those without a mental illness), or early death (individuals with untreated mental illness die twenty-five years earlier). Given that the onset of mental illness can be found in children as young as 3-years old, there is no reason as to why any child should have to suffer, especially when we treatment can help and most importantly save lives. Consult with your doctor or pediatrition to get more information about screening.
The first step to ridding the stigma is education. I ask each of you to join me and the countless number of mental health professionals and advocates who live and breath this issue, not just because they support mental health, but because they believe that every life matters. Below is some helpful information on warning signs/risk factors and ways you can help. I hope you find some time to share this information with someone you love, because it just might save a life.
- Talking about death and/or suicide
- Previous suicide attempt
- Feelings of hopelessness, despair, extreme sadness
- Giving away personal belongings
- Isolation and/or loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Extreme change in behavior such as;
- Going from happy to sad/angry outbursts
- Going from being sad to extremely calm or happy (this sometimes signifies that the person may have created a plan to end their life)
- Saying goodbye or saying things like "you won't have to worry about me anymore, I just can't take it, or no one will miss me"
- Being bullied or any other type of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
- If someone you know is showing signs of depression and or talking about suicide, ALWAYS take it seriously.
- This is a cry for help. Suicide is not about death, but about wanting to stop the pain.
- Do not dismiss the situtuation or think it will fix itself.
- If you are worried about someone, do not be afraid to ask, "Are you thinking about suicide and do you have a plan?" The #1 myth about suicide is that talking about it will cause someone to do it. The truth is that talking about suicide makes it less likely to occur.
- Stay with the person and do not leave them alone (if you feel you are in danger get help immidiately).
- No matter how much they promise that they will not harm themselves, do not leave them alone until a trusted adult has arrived and they have been linked to a mental health professional.
- Listen to what they have to say and do not be judgemental or try to argue.
- Talking about the situation is helpful in relieving anxiety and/or stress.
- Remove any type of lethal means from the home such as guns, knives, pills/medications.
- All access to guns should be removed from the home(50% of suides deaths are related to guns). When it comes to a crisis situation this issue is not about the right to own a gun or not, but about safety.
- Studies show that access to guns in a crisis situation increases the risk for a suicide attempt. For youth is a reported 79% risk (Source: Harvard Study: Firearm Access is a Risk for Suicide)
- Get help immidiately. Do not leave the person until they receive help and/or a trusted adult has been contacted.
- Call 911 if they are in immediate danger
- Ask if there is someone you can call for them (a parent, guardian, or any other trusted adult) and be sure you get them connected with a healthcare professional immediately.
- Always remember that you can also call the National Crisis Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). A trained professional will take your call 24 hours a day/7 days a week.
- DO NOT KEEP IT A SECRET. It is better to lose a friend for a day or two than to have them lose their life. If you are a young person, tell a trusted adult immediately.