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  • Writer's pictureA.S. Morris

World Suicide Prevent Day : The Final Countdown

***This post will deal with discussions surrounding suicide. Please know being kind to yourself is more important. Healing is possible and help is available.***


Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. I've seen several postings, messages, media snippets on this topic. However, many people don't think about the language used to discuss the topic of suicide. Like, EVERYTHING, in life, the words we choose to use is important. For example; go pick up that box or can you please go pick up that box... My example is not intended to minimize the thoughts or actions surrounding suicide. My example is to highlight how simple it is to add three words to change the delivery of a statement.


The media loves scary imagery and infographics. In some instances this may be beneficial, however, this tactic seems to be used as a blanket methodology. Suicide is not normal behavior. It also isn't a choice. I can promise you that when you get to that point you are truly not of sound mind. It is also highly likely that folks reading this blog disagree with my prior statement. That's okay too. We all subscribe to different beliefs.


Ending the stigma surrounding mental health disease and suicide wont happen overnight. I am simply asking for tolerance perhaps you can challenge yourself to move towards acceptance.


 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has a section on their website (https://www.nami.org/mhstats) that talks about mental health by the numbers. The majority of healthcare is dealt with in numbers. Tangible facts and figures that prove successes and failures, from finances to patient care. If it can't be captured on a dashboard you better figure out how to develop your metrics. Outlined below are just a handful of "figures" from NAMI. This list reads like any other major illness; cancer, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer's. Four disease processes that are tolerated, accepted, and supported.


  • 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year

  • 1 in 25 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year

  • 1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year

  • 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24

  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-34 

  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.

  • The overall suicide rate in the U.S. has increased by 31% since 2001

  • Mental illness and substance use disorders are involved in 1 out of every 8 emergency department visits by a U.S. adult (estimated 12 million visits)

  • Mood disorders are the most common cause of hospitalization for all people in the U.S. under age 45 (after excluding hospitalization relating to pregnancy and birth)

  • Across the U.S. economy, serious mental illness causes $193.2 billion in lost earnings each year

 

It is easy to read through a list of facts and figures, take pause, and move on with your day. We are inundated with numeric messaging. We are constantly challenged to form an opinion on something based on numbers. How candidates are performing in polls; COVID; stock market; weather. Again, my point is not to diminish mental health. I am a card carrying member of team mental illness. Hell, for a while I was team captain. Someday's I still am. My little quips and snarky comments are meant to normalize mental illness. More people should fear the dentist than going to therapy. Sorry dentist. Yet we go, twice a year. How many folks would benefit from a mental health check up once or twice a year? I bet my snarky folks out there are probably thinking about a few folks they'd sign up. Come on, you know I am right.


As someone who went 34 years without sharing their feelings because I was good. I am strong and stubborn and was fine. I truly was. I am a tough cookie and I could roll with the punches. I can promise you I have seen some ugly things that no one else should. I am cut from a rare cloth of healthcare workers. However, this practice of pushing through cause that's what we do proved to be quite unhealthy for me in the long run. I knew I needed help and I tried however I didn't want to openly admit it. People were telling me how strong I was in the situation I was in...well I've always been strong. People were praising me for keeping it all together....well I always have. Comments that were given to be supportive and likely pathways offered to ask for help were ignored. I'm fine. Now is the time for Morgan Freeman to say [ she was in fact not fine; a hot mess].


When you get to the point when you are told you are self destructing. You don't have the ability to pull in the reigns on your own. Like waiting too long to seek medical attention from a heart attack or stroke, the outcome can be life altering or ending. One of the hardest parts of coming out of the trenches is the moral injury that follows. Which is not surprising as I have PTSD. Moral injury is considered one of the four pillars of PTSD. They diverge when it comes to experiencing the trauma. Its a super fun venn diagram to find yourself in the middle of.


While I am still very much a work in progress. As I am 34 days away from one year , I can start to say it is okay to have depression. It is okay to have anxiety. It is okay to have PTSD. There is nothing wrong with you for having these invisible illnesses. I write this blog for my own healing. My own way to challenge myself that what I went through and am growing through is not wrong. It isn't taboo. Its okay. What isn't okay is that I had folks trying to help and that I was too stubborn, too far gone, too broken to realize. Fortunately these folks knew me well enough to know that this wasn't me. That I was struggling. I was always kind of a hot mess but in a fun way. I keep things entertaining.


So now I entertain all of you with my journey down my own version of San Francisco's Lombard Street. Somedays I am in a hair pin turn, some days simply a curve, some days a straight away. The hair pin turns are becoming less frequent. Which is growth. While I will forever be a part of the statistics referenced above from NAMI; it is a badge I wear with honor.


Its okay to not be okay. Its okay to seek help. There is no shame in having dark days and moments. You will realize your village is a lot bigger than you realized. I am not unique or special in my struggles. If I was, there wouldn't be a CVS length receipt of statistics. I am good with being 1 in 5. I am in good company.


If I can challenge you today; choose tolerance. Help end the stigma of mental illness and suicide.Be a safe harbor for those struggling. A simple text, a socially distant coffee, or simply being present can mean more than you can imagine.


 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.1-800-273-8255.



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