This September, West Virginians can learn how to save lives for National Suicide Prevention Month, Week (September 5-11), and Day (September 10).
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for West Virginians aged 10-34, and a significant cause of preventable deaths across all age ranges. Between 2010 and 2019, 3,445 people in the state died by suicide.
This year, everyone is encouraged to be part of suicide prevention by recognizing they can “Be The 1 To” help those around them in emotional pain. The campaign, which includes the hashtag “#BeThe1To,” emphasizes that anyone can save a life. Although seeking treatment from a professional therapist is beneficial to many, research shows that having a friend with whom to talk frankly about emotional issues can decrease the incidence of suicide.
Ways anyone can “Be The 1 To” prevent suicide include these:
• Ask directly about thoughts of suicide. Listen to them and acknowledge their pain. Avoid telling someone not to talk about suicide or dismissing their feelings by telling them they will be fine, or others have it worse.
• Be there for them, even if it’s not possible to be there in person. Let them know you will make time to listen to them.
• Keep them safe. If they are actively planning suicide, this may mean talking to others around them about their plans, securing lethal means such as firearms, or getting them to a hospital or treatment center.
• Help them connect with support and resources. This might mean connecting them with support groups, social services or mental health resources. A good place to start is with the National Suicide Lifeline, which is 1-800-273-TALK.
• For children and youths in crisis or needing behavioral health support, another resource to get connected with services in their communities is the Children’s Crisis and Referral Line of Help4WV at 1-844-435-7498.
• Follow up with them. Don’t assume that having one conversation is enough. Send a text, email, postcard, or make a call to let them know you care.
Calls to the National Suicide Lifeline from people in West Virginia have increased significantly this year. This July, there were 1,052 calls for help, a 43% increase in calls for help over last July. However, Ann Hammond, Program Director with First Choice Services, the company that answers the National Suicide Lifeline in West Virginia, says the increase in calls may indicate a positive trend. “It means that people are recognizing that they need help, and they are taking action. There has been a worldwide movement to decrease the stigma associated with seeking help for mental health issues. It’s becoming increasingly common for celebrities and athletes to talk publicly about their mental health struggles and how seeking help improved their lives.”
Hammond urges anyone who is depressed or considering harming themselves to call the National Suicide Lifeline, which is available 24/7, at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).