Editorial: September is National Suicide Prevention Month

Suicide isn't a topic we are all comfortable discussing.

It can be an extremely sensitive subject for those who have considered taking their lives, or for those of us who have had friends, family members or co-workers commit suicide. When someone we know or love commits suicide, it's a gut punch that leaves us wondering why.

The spotlight has been placed on mental health over the past several months as we deal with the stresses that the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has brought to our lives. Those stressors in our lives have been exacerbated by COVID-19 due to health concerns, worries about our jobs, our routines being disrupted and being cut off from friends and family due to our efforts to maintain our social distance to stem the spread of the virus.

Suicide rates have been climbing over much of the United States. Since 1999, suicide rates have increased over 30% in half of states, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC reported that in 2016, almost 45,000 lives were lost to suicide.

More than half of people who died by suicide -- 54% -- were unaware they had a mental health condition, according to the CDC.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and several educational campaigns are underway to help people feel more at ease talking about suicide. In this era of technology, there are a number of online resources available to educate ourselves about suicide.

The CDC (www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/suicide) lists 12 warning signs of suicide:

• Feeling like a burden.

• Being isolated.

• Increased anxiety.

• Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.

• Increased substance use.

• Looking for a way to access lethal means.

• Increased anger or rage.

• Extreme mood swings.

• Expressing hopelessness.

• Sleeping too little or too much.

• Talking or posting about wanting to die.

• Making plans for suicide.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (www.nami.org) stresses: "If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255) or call 911 immediately. If you're uncomfortable talking on the phone, you can also text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line."

Keep an eye on your family, friends and co-workers. These days, it's more important than ever that we take care of ourselves, and each other.

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