Article written by Mary Metten, Health and Well-being Extension Educator.
Originally published in the Kenosha News.
During the Youth Mental Health First Aid program, there is a brief activity where participants partner up to practice saying to one another without response, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”
Having people ask the question is not the beginning of a role-play activity, with a scripted plot that people typically do not enjoy doing within trainings. Rather, it is a simple, yet powerful and very difficult sentence to utter. The minute within the program is for people to practice and hear themselves say the words aloud.
The notion of people dying by suicide is a hard topic to broach for many. Discomfort and not wishing to even think about it is typical and understandable; however, awareness and prevention are such vital and important factors to consider.
Suicide Prevention Month
September is recognized as Suicide Prevention Month, with National Suicide Prevention Week and Day also having occurred earlier in the month. As this month comes to an end and each month of the year brings equally important campaigns of awareness and prevention, September should definitely not be the only time to consider the importance of suicide prevention.
According to the most recent available data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s WISQARS Leading Causes of Death Reports, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death overall in this country, the second leading cause of death for people 10-34 years old, and the fourth leading cause of death for people 35-54 years old.
Additionally, between 2007 and 2018, the national suicide rate among persons 10-24 years old increased 57.4%, Wisconsin specifically seeing a 33.7% increase. Rates like this show the stark need for awareness and prevention efforts throughout society at large.
Additional prevention measures
The Federal Communications Commission unanimously voted to nationally designate a three-digit dialing code in an effort to easily get people connected to support and prevent suicide. The code will connect callers with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and will ultimately be something easy to remember and widely accessible.
The three-digit code is not active yet, implementation of the number will occur over the next two years, with phone services needing to have it operable by July 2022.
The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act would further establish the three-digit dialing code for suicide prevention and create funding and support throughout phone carriers to help sustain the service nationwide. It is currently in the process of going through Congress, with the Senate having already passed the bill earlier in 2020.
How to reach help
Currently, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Lifeline is available 24/7, providing free and confidential support.
Another form of support is the Crisis Text Line, which can be reached by text messaging 741741. The Crisis Text Line provides 24/7, free support via the messaging medium.
Locally, the Kenosha Human Development Services (KHDS) Crisis Intervention Line is 262-657-7188 and is available 24/7 for support.