September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
Grace Weatherby
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2023

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

Photo: 2022 Suicide Awareness Vigil at Lake Paran

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. It is a time to encourage conversation and share information on this stigmatized, often taboo, topic. Suicidal thoughts, much like mental health conditions, can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background. Every death from suicide is a tragedy, and is often the result of an untreated mental health condition. Research shows that with greater understanding and support, we can reduce suicide rates. To do this, suicide needs to be recognized as a public health problem, and a greater understanding for everyone on how it can be prevented.

Every 40 seconds, someone in the world dies by suicide. In the state of Vermont, one person dies by suicide every three days. These numbers are difficult to comprehend, and even more staggering to discover that for every person that dies by suicide, 25 more attempt it. While many people experience fleeting thoughts of suicide, their threats often go ignored. Debunking the myth that these thoughts of suicide are a sign of weakness, attention seeking, or being selfish, is vital to helping the individual through these times of crisis. For those experiencing hopelessness and helplessness, suicide can seem like the only way out. Research has shown that when those contemplating suicide have someone to talk to, they often will agree to get the treatment they need.

If you suspect someone is contemplating suicide, it is imperative to talk with them and ask direct questions to find out what they're thinking. Your questions will not push them to act on their thoughts, but rather give them an opportunity to convey how they feel and reduce the risk of them completing suicide. Talking with and finding help for someone who may be suicidal can be difficult. Some helpful steps include being direct and talking openly about suicide. Be willing to listen and allow the person to express their feelings, and make sure that you are acting non-judgmentally. This includes not debating whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether their feelings are good or bad. Willingness to listen and offer hope with available alternatives can provide reassurance and see that recovery is possible.

If you feel this person is a danger to themselves, it is critical that they are not left alone. Getting help from people or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention, or calling 911, is necessary to help keep them safe. United Counseling Service (UCS) can provide immediate emergency services to individuals in crisis 24 hours a day, 7 days a week throughout Bennington County. The clinician on call responds to all requests and can also help arrange more intense levels of care as needed, such as a hospital or a short-term crisis bed. You can access these services by calling 802-442-5491.

UCS also offers Mental Health First Aid training for anyone in the community who would like to become better educated about mental illness, and how to respond in a mental health emergency. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 800-273-8255 (TALK), along with 988 and the Crisis Text Line (text 74174), is also available, 24 hours a day, and can provide free and confidential support for people in distress and help connect them to prevention and crisis resources.

Understanding the issues surrounding suicide and mental health is an important initial step to helping others in crisis and begin to change the stigmas and misconceptions around suicide. The mental health of yourself or a loved one can never be taken too seriously. If you are struggling with a mental health issue, try to allow friends, family or a professional to lighten the burden by finding support. It’s important to remember there is no shame in seeking help. if you suspect someone is having thoughts of suicide, speak up. You just might save a life.

UCS provides outpatient counseling and addictions services, emergency mental health services, extensive rehabilitation services, home and school-based services, employment services for people recovering from mental illness or with developmental disabilities and Early Childhood Services. For more information visit ucsvt.org or call 802.442.5491.

Please join us for one of several upcoming events:

Friday, September 29 at 5:30pm: Suicide Awareness Vigil at Lake Paran

Wednesday, October 4 at 5:30pm: UCS Presents: Ripple Effect at Manchester Community Library

Thursday, October 19 at 7:30pm: An Evening with Kevin Hines at Riley Center for the Arts, Burr and Burton Academy

 

Katie Aiken is a Blueprint clinician with United Counseling Service.

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