Significant strides have been made this past year towards coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, with the rise of variants, turbulence overseas, troubling news and with cold and flu season just around the corner on top of all this, it can feel as though hope might be slipping away once more, which could lead to even more distressing feelings.
A report put out by the journal Boston Translational Behavioral Medicine in April 2021 stated that anxiety and depression rose six times higher in 2020 than in the year before. The study reiterated the affects the pandemic had on health, mortality, the economy, etc, stating it led to “gross disturbances in people’s daily lives and social interactions.”
“Not surprisingly, these myriad of stressors have led to rising rates of mental health disorder symptoms,” the journal continued.
As the world continues to fight back in the face of variants and other stressors, and as the Granite State draws closer to shorter days leading to the affects of Seasonal Affective issues, all of these things could make for the perfect storm of mental health woes, leading to severe symptoms for many.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has made this year’s campaign, “Together for Mental Health,” to encourage people to bring their voices together to advocate for and reduce the stigma against mental health care.
According to NAMI, nearly half of all people who die by suicide have some form of pre-existing mental health condition. Research has shown that of this portion, 90 percent of these people have experienced symptoms.
NAMI wants the public to know that knowing the signs of mental health crisis that could lead to suicide ideation or plans of suicide is crucial to getting a loved one life-saving help.
The beginning signs of suicidal ideation aren’t always obvious. NAMI mentions that seemingly innocuous comments such as “Nothing matters,” or, “I’m just so tired of this” could over time become “more explicit and dangerous,” and should be considered possible red flags.
Other warning signs of suicide include, but may not be limited to: increase in alcohol or drug use; aggressive behavior; withdrawal from friends, family, and community; dramatic mood swings; impulsive or reckless behavior.
NAMI makes it a point to consider suicidal behaviors as a psychiatric emergency, and urges anyone with family or friends exhibiting the following to seek immediate help from a health care provider, or even to dial 911: collecting or saving pills or buying a weapon; giving away possessions; uncharacteristically tying up loose ends (organizing personal papers or paying off debts); and saying goodbye to friends and family.
The National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) offers five action steps for helping a loved one considering suicide.
The first step is to simply ask. Anyone who suspects that any friends or family members might be in crisis are encouraged to approach them and ask if they are thinking of harming themselves or committing suicide. If so, step two is to keep them safe by reducing access to lethal items or places, and to offer emotional and physical reassurance (step 3).
The fourth step is to help loved ones connect to mental health resources, including suicide prevention hotlines, mental health care providers, physicians, etc. Finally, loved ones should be sure to stay connected, and to follow up throughout and after their family or friends are experiencing crisis.
According to NAMI, “There is a widespread stigma associated with suicide and as a result, many people are afraid to speak about it.” It is an uncomfortable subject, but talking about it openly, honestly, and non-judgmentally is crucial to providing anyone in crisis with the proper care they need to make steps toward recovery.
Many believe that thoughts, or even attempts at suicide are selfish or attention-seeking, but this is often very much not the case. NAMI states that often people feel that suicide is the only way to end often long-term suffering.
NAMI continues, “They are not simply, ‘thinking of themselves,’ but rather they are going through a very serious mental health symptom due to either mental illness or difficult life situation.”
Time may still be tough, but family and friends are stronger together. It is easy to become preoccupied, but keeping a line of open and honest communication could make all the difference in someone’s life – and could even potentially save it.
Anyone experiencing distressing thoughts or suicide ideation is encouraged to contact the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Those who may be having trouble expressing their thoughts, or who may be unable to speak for any reason are encouraged to text NAMI to 741-741.
If anyone has been injured or harmed in any way, has shown signs of overdose, etc, 911 should be called immediately.