TRIGGER WARNING: SUICIDE AND MENTAL HEALTH
There are 86,400 seconds in one single day. On average, every time 40 of those seconds pass, someone takes their own life. Experts predict that by the end of 2020, this rate will be doubled, meaning one death by suicide every 20 seconds. The Coronavirus Pandemic has led to intense feelings of social isolation, anxiety, and chronic stress. These three things separately increase the risk of suicidality in an individual, but together, the impact of them is even more detrimental. The pandemic is expected to have a lasting effect on suicide and mental health rates extending far beyond the immediate future.
This week, September 6 through September 12, is National Suicide Prevention Week. As a journalist, I do not normally share personal experiences within articles. This one is slightly different. The August before my freshman year of college, a good childhood friend of mine took his own life. His death led to a huge shift in my priorities and a hyper-awareness for the wellbeing of myself and the people around me. My hope in sharing this is to provide humanization to the topic even for those who have not been personally affected by it. I hope to convey that these are not just statistics or numbers. They are real people with families and friends who grieve them with each passing day. I write this to you today, in hopes that you will take it with you far beyond a dedicated week or month.
In the United States, Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 10-24-year-olds. For every one suicide, there are 25 attempts. Suicide is preventable. Here are some things to keep in mind even when this week is over.
This is the telephone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL). The lifeline is free, confidential, and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This simple telephone number could save so many lives. I encourage you to share it in whatever way you wish. In addition to the lifeline, if you are concerned about a friend, the NSPL website provides a slew of resources for how to help a friend. Using the slogan “#Bethe1To”, they provide information on how to be the one to ask, be there, keep them safe, help them stay connected, and to follow up.
Mental illness does not equate to mental weakness.
Especially among athletes and men, this fact can be difficult to understand and cope with. Robin Lehner, an elite goalie for the Vegas Golden Knights, has been open about his personal struggles with bipolar disorder and addiction. In his acceptance speech for the 2019 Bill Masterson Memorial trophy, Lehner said, “I’m not ashamed to say I am mentally ill, but that does not mean I’m mentally weak.” Lehner was in a very low place at one point but fortunately, he was able to get the help he needed and is now thriving on and off the ice. He has become one of the faces for destroying the stigma around mental health in the sports world. Robin is a close family friend, and I am forever grateful that he received the help he needed.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
This is a great resource for both education on the subject and for prevention. The AFSP provides a crisis text line. Just text TALK to 741-741 and you will be connected to a crisis counselor for free, 24/7. Their slogan of “#KeepGoing” has been a symbol of mental health support since the beginning of the pandemic. As the AFSP webpage states, “In the era of COVID-19, as we all try to protect our mental health and cope with uncertainty, it is more important than ever that we be there for each other and take steps to prevent suicide.” In addition, they are providing many virtual courses and Zoom workshops to educate on suicide prevention, warning signs, self-care, and much more. Head to their website for more information!
Know the warning signs.
Suicidal ideation manifests in many different ways for each person. Some of the most common warning signs include vocalizing the desire for self-harm or death, discussion of having no purpose, feeling like a burden, increased substance abuse, sleeping too much or too little, extreme mood swings, and many more. If you believe someone is a danger to themselves, seek help immediately.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your friends, even the seemingly happy ones!
Sometimes, wanting to mask suicidal ideation can present itself in forms of overcompensation or constant reassurance that they are okay. If you are worried about yourself or a loved one, it is always better to be safe rather than sorry. Reach out to friends and family if you are struggling. You are not alone.
Lean on Me
Lean on Me is a student-to-student anonymous texting hotline that students can use for mental health resources or crises. College is incredibly stressful and University Counseling Services appointments can be difficult to schedule, so this resource provides students with 24/7 help from other students. All of the individuals on the other side of the text chain are trained and can provide resources, reassurance, and support, among many other things.
University Counseling Services offers appointments with professionals to help with things from anxiety and depression, all the way to solving organizational and classwork problems. You can schedule an appointment by calling 617-552-3310. Every life is worth living. Hug harder, laugh louder, and love deeper. Together, we can create a society where there is no stigma around mental health and people from all walks of life feel comfortable enough to reach out when they are in need of help.