September is suicide prevention awareness month, and to spread awareness Stacey Cherry, a mental health counselor in Machias, Maine, led a discussion on the basic attitudes and beliefs about suicide, risk factors, warning signs and simple interventions and approaches to intervene with someone who may be contemplating suicide.
“Preventing suicide starts with our comfort in acknowledging talking about suicide,” Cherry said during the introduction to her event.
Often those who ideate suicide are those who have an increased feeling of being a burden as well as perceived loneliness. It is a common myth that talking about suicide could lead to suicidal tendencies; not only is this is false, it is extremely harmful to our community.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that the rate of suicide in Maine and the entire United States has been rising since 2006. In Maine, an average of 257 citizens die by suicide each year. Out of all northeastern states, Maine has the highest rate of suicide and is 20% above the national rate; a Mainer is nine times more likely to die by suicide than from homicide.
Mental health awareness and the destigmatization of mental health issues are vital in order to encourage others to receive the help they need, especially groups such as men indigenous peoples and veterans that might face social or systemic barriers that discourage reaching out for support.
Approximately 6,000 veterans die by suicide each year, which accounts for 14% of all suicides annually. Overall, suicide is the ninth leading cause of death at all ages, where every 1.4 days someone dies by suicide. This led Cherry into the next segment of the discussion on warning signs, as well as risk and protective factors.
Cherry defined risk factors as, “stressful events or situations that may increase the likelihood of a suicide attempt.” Protective factors, meanwhile, are personal and social resources that promote resiliency and can help the individual more effectively handle stressful events and mitigate or eliminate risk. With the COVID-19 pandemic, it was recorded that individuals reporting unmet mental health care needs increased from 9.2% to 11.7%, while the number of adults with recent symptoms of an anxiety or depressive disorder increased from 36.4% to 41.5%, according to the CDC.
This shows how it is even more important now to spread awareness and tell people that they are not alone.
“Preventing suicide will require help from everyone, not just mental health professionals. Anyone can help save a life,” Cherry said on the notion of open communication about suicide.
Showing up and being fully present can help someone who is having suicidal tendencies feel less alone. This emphasizes how important it is for everyone to notice and be aware of each other, this means listening for direct or indirect statements, expressions of helplessness, and looking for changes in attitudes and behaviors. Showing you care can provide the individual with enough hope to lead them to utilize different resources and seek support.
There are many different resources for students on campus such as the Counseling Center, located in the Cutler Health Center, which is across from Gannett Hall. The Counseling Center services are offered on Zoom, phone or in-person from Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 12p.m. and 1p.m. to 4:30 p.m.. You can reach the Counseling Center at 207-581-1392 to schedule an appointment.
The Counseling Center also offers “Mental Health Tips” on their website. Here, counselors have small workshop series and handouts on different aspects such as ‘Cultivating Calm,’ ‘Mindfulness’, ‘Procrastination’, ‘Compassion,’ ‘Impostor Syndrome,’ ‘Gratitude Journaling’ and ‘Sleep Hygiene.’ They also have different resources on anxiety, depression, gender and sexual identity, eating and stress.
Outside of the counseling center, The Mind Spa (120 Memorial Union) is open Mondays to Fridays from 12 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. This resource is a part of Student Wellness (149 Memorial Union) where trained staff offer trainings and programs for students and staff on a variety of mental health topics such as suicide prevention, self care and healthy communication.
If you are in crisis – thinking of harming yourself or someone else, or you have recently experienced a significant traumatic event – please call the Counseling Center (during business hours), UMPD (207-581-4040) or 911.