May is Mental Health Awareness month. Approximately 60 million people live with mental illness in our country. These people are our friends, neighbors, or our loved ones. March 4, KSL.com reported that Utah has the highest rate of mental illness in the nation. They reported that 22.4 percent of the adult population experienced a mental illness in the past year. Mental illness is a major public health concern that exists in our community and in Emery County. Today, I would like to review the illness that has impacted my life, and probably yours.
Suicide. Our community has lost too many people to suicide. We have lost young, we have lost old, we have lost sisters, we have lost friends. It's time to break the silence around suicide. The silence is created around the fact that for many years suicide has had a stigma. A stigma that prevents people from talking about those that they have lost to this disease, and a stigma that prevents people from reaching out and getting help. Rural areas have significantly higher rates of suicide when compared to urban areas. The Utah Department of Health Violence and Protection Program reports that Utah has the eighth highest rate of suicide for adults in the nation and suicide is the second leading cause of death for Utahns ages 15-19. Lets stop it! As a community it is going to require a response. Look around in your community with your friends and neighbors. Have awareness around you in your family and social groups. Recognize who is not present and who you need to reach out to. Is it your brother? Is it your neighbor? Co-worker? Talk to them. Reach out, show that you care. The warning signs of suicide include the following; Talking about suicide; excessive or increased substance abuse; feelings of hopelessness or talking as if they do not have a reason to live; heightened abnormal anxiety; feelings/expressions of being trapped in a situation; withdrawal from families, friends, activities; excessive anger; recklessness in behaviors; dramatic mood changes. Some or all of the symptoms can indicate that a person is struggling.
As a professional, when we evaluate those as a risk of suicide we look at two things to prevent them and refer to them as Risk and Protective factors. Protective factors reduce the likelihood of suicide. These include things like restricting access to lethal methods of suicide by removing weapons and medications from their home, engaging them in clinical help with mental health and medical professionals, strong connections to family and spiritual support, skills on how to deal with problems and so forth. Risk factors cannot be changed and refer to things that increase the likelihood that they will be successful without intervention. Some risk factors include previous suicide attempts, presence of a mental illness such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and so forth; alcohol or substance use; history of trauma and/or abuse; major physical illness; family history of suicide.
Silence does not treat this disease, action does. Show love and concern for them. Provide daily check in's, be positive, be aware, help them seek professional help from their physician or mental health professional. Help is available. Break the silence and help us treat the disease that is taking our loved ones from our homes and communities. Helpful links: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK, Four Corners Behavioral Health 435-381-2432, or at any time with immediate concern our emergency services through 911 or 435-381-2404.