Mental Health Awareness

May 22, 2019

May is Mental Health Awareness month. In the United States approximately 1 in 5 adults experience a mental health condition every year, and 1 in 25 adult lives with a serious mental health condition such as bipolar disease, long-term major depression, and schizophrenia. For children and adolescents, 20% experience a mental health condition annually. Suicide rates in the United States have increased 31% from 2001 to 2017 according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for individuals between 10 and 34 years old. Suicidal thoughts and behaviors are an emergency that requires immediate intervention. If you think someone you know is serious about hurting themselves call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) immediately.

Due to the prevalence of mental illness and suicide, it is important to know the warning signs, risk factors, and how to get help and help others. The attached fact sheet from the CDC discusses prevention and consequences of suicide. According to the National Alliance for Mental Health, warning signs for suicide include the following:

  • Threats or comments about killing themselves, also known as suicidal ideation (can begin with seemingly harmless thoughts like “I wish I wasn’t here” but can become more overt and dangerous)
  • Increased alcohol and drug use
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Social withdrawal from friends, family and the community
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Talking, writing or thinking about death
  • Impulsive or reckless behavior

Risk factors for suicide include the following:

  • A family history of suicide
  • Substance abuse (drugs and alcohol can result in mental highs and lows that exacerbate suicidal thoughts)
  • Intoxication (more than 1 in 3 people who die from suicide are found to be currently under the influence)
  • Access to firearms
  • A serious or chronic medical illness
  • Gender (although more women than men attempt suicide, men are 4 times more likely to die by suicide)
  • A history of trauma or abuse
  • Prolonged stress
  • Isolation
  • Age (people under age 24 or above age 65 are at a higher risk for suicide)
  • A recent tragedy or loss
  • Agitation and sleep deprivation

For those who have risk factors, seeing a mental health professional, engaging in therapy and/or taking medication may improve symptoms related to suicide and underlying mental health conditions.

Support is a key factor in suicide prevention. If you know someone who is dealing with a mental health issue or experiencing a difficult situation, active listening, empathy, providing a shoulder to lean on and helping them find professional assistance can make all the difference. For more information on suicide go to www.NAMI.org or call 1-800-950-NAMI.

Download the CDC’s Preventing Suicide overview here.