Suicide sneaks up on people. It creeps in the back door of someone’s mind and slowly consumes their thoughts. It overtakes the beautiful minds of unique people like a weed until the unthinkable happens.
The aftermath of suicide is far-reaching. It’s unfathomable to understand the impact of one life, and nothing makes it more apparent than when that life is suddenly taken from this world. But, it doesn’t have to be like this.
September is recognized as National Suicide Prevention Awareness month. The month is centered around educating people about warning signs of suicidal thoughts and behavior with the hope of preventing suicide from occurring. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health must be at the forefront of everyone’s minds.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), 2018 had the highest suicide rates since 1941. When considering the effect of COVID-19, suicide rates are expected to show major increases. Less access to community and religious outlets along with social isolation and economic stress are all contributors to poor mental health, according to JAMA. Isolating from others has also shown a direct correlation to increased suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
Psychology Today reported on a post- COVID-19 suicide epidemic due to the lasting effects and ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic. They said that other countries with high numbers of COVID- 19 cases have already seen spikes in suicides related to the pandemic, and the U.S. may be next in line. After all, we are reporting the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases in the world.
However, suicide is not the only concern right now. To best prevent suicide, we have to start with mental health in general. It is all too easy to become caught up in your own world and ignore friends and others, and the pandemic has only magnified this. To combat this trend, we need to educate ourselves.
The most critical parts to improving mental health and preventing suicide are knowing the signs and understanding what to do in situations concerning mental health and suicide. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) provides numerous resources designed to educate and prevent suicide that can be found at nami.org.
According to NAMI, warning signs of suicidal behavior include withdrawing from friends or family, aggressive behavior or impulsive and reckless behavior among others. NAMI advises that if friends or relatives show signs of planning to commit suicide, such as saying goodbye to family and friends, then you should immediately call 911 or contact a health provider. Suicide is considered a psychiatric emergency and should be regarded as such, according to NAMI.
Other on-campus resources are available from the Berry Counseling Center and the Peer Educators. Sept. 6 through 12 is National Suicide Prevention Week, and the Peer Educators have been providing content to encourage positivity and wellness on their Instagram, @berrypeereds. The Counseling Center currently provides counseling via telehealth technology. This counseling is included in your fees as a student and should be utilized. Outside of Berry, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24/7 with options for text communication and accommodations for the deaf and hard of hearing.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, do not be silent. Talk to a trusted adult or health professional or even a friend. Each of these people care about you, and they can guide you to your next steps. It’s not easy and it’s not pretty, but it’s necessary. No one wants to wake up to the news that one of their friends has committed suicide, and no one wants anyone to have to struggle silently and alone. We are here for you.
We all have the power to bring change. Be present, reach out to your friends that you haven’t heard from in a while and most importantly, pay attention. It is possible to prevent suicide and improve mental health, but we all must do our part.