While the month of September is designated each year as National Suicide Prevention Month, we’ve come to realize that depression and the other causes of suicide are not limited to one month out of the year. Suicide prevention needs to be year-round.
Suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. It claims approximately 48,000 American lives each year. For every so-called successful suicide, there are 25 attempts. Some of those attempts were ended by a change of heart, while other would-be victims may owe their lives to other quick-thinking, heroic and caring individuals.
Suicidal thoughts can enter the mind of anyone, regardless of age, gender, health, background or economic status. It affects young people - the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that one in four people under the age of 18 have contemplated suicide - and older people. Another large, at risk group are veterans, considered to be 1.5 times more likely to die from suicide than non-veteran adults. Every 22 minutes, a veteran dies from suicide.
There’s a good chance that we may all have a friend, relative or loved one who has considered suicide. That’s why we all need to recognize the warning signs:
• Increased alcohol and drug use and aggressive behavior
• Withdrawal from friends, family, and community
• Dramatic mood swings or impulsive or reckless behavior
• Collecting and saving pills or buying a weapon
• Giving away possessions and tying up loose ends, like organizing papers or paying off debts.
There are a number of local suicide prevention resources available: Orange County runs a crisis call center on a 24/7 basis. It can be accessed by calling 3-1-1; Ulster County has several local suicide prevention resources, including the Ulster County Suicide Prevention, Education, Awareness and Knowledge Coalition (SPEAK), and Family of Woodstock’s crisis hotline/text line, available 24/7 at (845) 679.2485. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also available 24/7 at (800) 273-8255 or online at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a particularly stressful time for all of us. There has never been a more critical time for us to pull together and help one another. Let’s take care of those who might be struggling at this difficult time.