Every 12 minutes, someone in the U.S. dies of suicide, a startling statistic provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s good for a rate of approximately 120 deaths per day and nearly 45,000 per year.
It is the second-leading cause of death among Americans between the ages of 15 and 24, a particularly haunting figure considering the demographic. Few things in life are as terrible as the death of a young person, regardless of the context.
Roughly one in five people suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder (according to Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, or SAVE), yet the National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that only half of all Americans that experience major depressive episodes receive treatment.
Depression is one of the main reasons people are driven to commit suicide, but is far from an uncommon affliction. According to SAVE, depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, yet remains a highly stigmatized topic of conversation.
Far too often, those among us that struggle with psychological issues like depression are driven into isolation, the accompanying feelings of shame and embarrassment too difficult to disregard.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month in the United States, but frankly, awareness of the issue at hand isn’t enough to curb the problem that we face. Particularly on a college campus, filled with young adults — and during a global pandemic amid intense political and social strife, no less — the mental well-being of those around us should be more paramount than ever.
Just days ago, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that “the U.S. House gave final passage Monday to the Senate version of the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act.” Essentially, the U.S. could soon have a new three-digit suicide prevention hotline — 988, mirroring the 911 number generally dialed for emergencies.
While the news of a three-digit, nationally-recognized hotline for suicide prevention is a tremendous development, it still shouldn’t be championed as a consummate solution to the problem at hand.
In order to truly mitigate the amount of deaths by suicide that we see in our communities, the No. 1 thing that needs to happen is destigmatization — the destigmatization of not only suicidal thoughts, but of depression, anxiety and all other pertinent psychological factors.
One of the most difficult things you can ask of someone that’s struggling with their mental health is to speak openly about their feelings of sorrow and despair. It can appear as a terrifying, almost unthinkable thing to do.
Anybody with the bravery to speak of their struggles deserves to be prioritized, to be listened to.
Sure, it’s an uncomfortable conversation. It can be difficult to listen to someone detail something so personal, so awful. But it is necessary.
As this National Suicide Prevention Month comes to a close, challenge yourself to listen intently to those around you, to check up on those close to you. Sometimes, the best thing you can be for someone is a nonjudgmental listener.
Doing so might just save a life.