Editorial: Change a life, ask ‘Are you OK?’
It is a silent affliction. It even comes with a stigma — people being afraid or reluctant to admit it is or has been a problem for them or someone they know.
It also does not discriminate; anyone of any color, young and old, women and men, rich or poor, veterans — anyone.
And the COVID-19 situations we’re enduring as a community have exacerbated its numbers.
We’re talking about suicide.
That means those who contemplate suicide, try it or achieve it, are suffering from something as simple as depression to mental challenges as complex as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They see ending their life as the only solution to their challenges.
In fact, suicide is often the result of an untreated mental health condition. Suicidal thoughts, although common, should not be considered normal, and often indicate more serious issues.
We can stop it. You can help. The month of September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that more than one out of every 10 adults have reported thoughts of suicide in the past 30 days, more than double from two years earlier.
Every year, thousands of people die by suicide, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, leaving behind their friends and family members to navigate the tragic loss. In many cases, friends and families affected by a suicide loss — often called “suicide loss survivors” — are left in the dark.
Too often the feelings of shame and stigma prevent them from talking openly, similar to how the person they’ve lost felt that they could not open up either.
September is a time to share resources in an effort to shed light on this highly stigmatized topic. While organizations are working to reach out to those affected by suicide, raise awareness and connect individuals with suicide ideation to treatment services, we suggest asking “Are you OK?”
Ask your friends, brother, sister, parents, children, neighbors … are you OK? It opens the door to something as simple as a conversation in which they learn someone cares enough to ask and you spending time to talk with them.
It also serves as an opportunity to ensure that people have access to resources they need to discuss suicide prevention.
One local resource is the Yavapai Justice and Mental Health Coalition, justicementalhealth.com. Another is the Yavapai County Suicide Prevention Coalition at communitycountsaz.com/yavapai-county-suicide-prevention-coalition-ycspc.
Even more simply, if needed, is having someone they do not know to talk with; call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, available 24 hours a day: 800-273-8255.
Suicide prevention goes beyond this month; it is important to address year-round. Truth is, we can all benefit from honest conversations about mental health conditions and suicide, because just one conversation can change a life.
Ask “Are you OK?” — and mean it.