September is Suicide Awareness Month, also known as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, which may lead people to wonder what the point is of bringing awareness to suicide.
Most of us don’t want to think about things like suicide, that makes us sad and confused, or even angry. For those of us who haven’t had suicidal thoughts or lost a loved one to suicide, it may be easy to just avoid this uncomfortable topic and go about our business hoping that we won’t ever have to encounter it. However, those who live with these thoughts, have a loved one who does, or have had a loved one die by suicide cannot avoid this topic, and we really shouldn’t either.
Most suicides are caused by mental illnesses, which have a strong stigma attached to them. Have you noticed that when someone dies of cancer the predominate emotion expressed is sadness, but when someone dies by suicide that was caused by depression or bipolar disorder, the emotion is quite different? People are often angered that someone would “commit” suicide, as if this were a completely rational choice they made one day just to hurt others. People say that suicide is a selfish act, and some religions even consider it a sin. There is so much misunderstanding about suicide, due to mostly inaccurate media depictions of it, and a lack of accurate information being rendered. These misunderstandings deeply hurt those who suffer from mental illnesses and their families, especially those who’ve lost a family member to suicide.
If that is not enough of a reason for you to want to become more aware of suicide, then consider that our lack of understanding actually leads to more suicides. If we don’t truly understand mental illness and its most devastating symptoms, then how can we prevent them from continuing to occur?
Since one in five Americans have a mental illness, if you don’t suffer from one yourself, it’s very likely that a close friend, family member, or colleague of yours does. This is 20 percent of our population, of our communities that we live in, suffering from an illness that can be life-threatening, yet many still do not understand the most basic facts about these illnesses. So to break it down in very simple terms, here are the top 5 things I want you to know about suicide.
- Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among youth ages 10 to 24, and the 10th leading cause of death for all Americans.
- Ninety percent of those who die by suicide have a mental illness.
- Mental illness is no more under one’s control than physical illness is; therefore, those who have depression cannot just try harder to get better any more than someone with cancer can. In both cases there are things you can do to help prevent the illness from getting worse, and treatments that can relieve the symptoms, sometimes to the point of remission, but to assume that someone who’s depressed just isn’t trying hard enough is insulting and simply not true most of the time.
- Nearly 60 percent of adults with mental illnesses, and 50 percent of children, do not receive treatment for their illnesses.
- These statistics are to a large part due to the stigma surrounding mental illness, which impacts the accessibility of mental healthcare, as well as the likelihood that people will seek treatment even when it is available and affordable.
The reason we need to be aware of suicide is so that we can change these statistics, and not continue to let people die who could have been saved, had they received proper treatment. For more information about the warning signs of mental illness and suicide, and what to do when you see them, go to nami.org. Whenever in doubt, see a mental health professional to get accurately diagnosed and treated.