SPRINGFIELD — National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month for 2021 runs throughout September. During this important observance, MHA wants everyone in the community to know that there is help — potentially lifesaving help — for individuals, families, and people they care about.
The Suicide Prevention Lifeline (www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org) is a national network of local crisis centers that provide free and confidential emotional support, 24/7, to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. A toll-free call to (800) 273-8255 routes callers to a trained crisis worker at a local center — someone who can provide help right now.
During Suicide Prevention Month, MHA is also calling attention to its own work helping people who struggle with mental-health issues, including thoughts of suicide. The organization stands ready to provide services and supports focused on preventing a permanent reaction to a temporary problem. To learn more, call MHA’s BestLife Emotional Health and Wellness Center at (844) 642-9355.
“We are participating in this awareness effort to achieve a simple goal: to help people recognize a serious public health problem so everyone can talk about it,” said Sara Kendall, MHA’s vice president of Clinical Operations. “We can all benefit from open dialogue about mental health and suicide because just one conversation could save a life. Being there, whether in person or through the many ways people stay in touch these days, could save a life. Throughout Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, we’ll reach out to dispel myths, discuss mental health, and encourage conversations that could be life-saving. We want to help people know what it means to be there.”
MHA has long made a focus on suicide prevention a fundamental commitment. “As an organization dedicated to mental health, we are in a unique position to raise the topic, share information, and encourage open conversations,” Kendall said. “With this in mind, MHA embraces a systematic, agency-wide approach for suicide prevention called Zero Suicide. Think of it as a toolkit specifically designed for health and behavioral healthcare. Our team has been trained to successfully implement Zero Suicide at MHA for the benefit of every member of our staff and every person we serve. This enables us to train our entire staff so everyone who could interact with the folks we serve will have basic tools to recognize a potential problem and help.”
According to Kimberley Lee, MHA’s vice president of Resource Development & Branding, MHA is getting the word out about suicide prevention by partnering again this year with Mychal Connolly Sr., brand manager from Stand Out Truck in Springfield. “Stand Out Truck is uniquely mobile, and, frankly, it’s hard to miss,” Lee said. “This illuminated, mobile messaging truck is an ideal medium because suicide prevention is a subject that deserves bold, engaging, and widespread attention. Silence breeds stigma, and we must take every opportunity to encourage one another to talk about how we’re feeling emotionally and raise awareness about resources for suicide prevention.”
Why does MHA go to such lengths to encourage people to talk openly about suicide prevention? Because nearly 50,000 people die from suicide each year in the U.S. alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — that’s one death from suicide every 10.5 minutes.
According to the CDC and the Veterans Administration, suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death among all Americans and the third-leading cause of death for ages 15 to 24. More people die by suicide than from automobile accidents or from homicide. Veterans are 1.5 times more likely to commit suicide than non-veterans, while veteran women are nearly twice as likely to commit suicide than non-veteran women.
“It’s important to reach people who aren’t feeling quite right before they are to the point where they feel that killing themselves is their only option,” Kendall said. “Through BestLife, MHA’s outpatient center for emotional health and wellness, people who are anxious, depressed, afraid, or at risk of hurting themselves can talk with someone who cares, who listens, and who can help connect them with supports to help them start feeling better.
“COVID has compounded feelings of isolation for so many people, and, more than ever, people are feeling distressed, frustrated, and confused,” she went on. “So we invite members of the community to join us for a conversation. Whether that conversation happens in person, with appropriate social distancing, or virtually using MHA’s TeleWell app to connect interested persons with a licensed MHA counselor, we are ready to start talking. We are ready to listen. We are ready to be there by helping people live their best life.”