Suicide Prevention Awareness Month | Ending stigma and offering help

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — September marks National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, a time to bring awareness to the warning signs of suicide and to the resources available to prevent it.

Advocates from Frontier Health and The Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network want to end the stigma surrounding talking about suicide. They also want to provide people with the resources necessary to prevent death by suicide.

Part of that stigma is the way we talk about suicide.

Kristy Tipton, the division director of crisis and specialty services at Frontier Health said we have to be careful not to place blame.

“When you say ‘death by suicide’ versus someone ‘committed suicide’, saying someone ‘committed’ something kind of puts the blame on that person, and it’s really not that person’s fault; it’s no one else’s fault either,” said Tipton. “Unfortunately, people die by suicide every day because of mental illness and because of situational stressors that they just don’t see a way out.”

In 2019, over 47,500 people in the US lost their lives to suicide, according to the CDC. In Tennessee alone, more than 1,200 Tennesseans die by suicide each year, according to Frontier Health. Tipton said for every one of those deaths, 120 other people are attempting suicide.

Tipton said there are more obvious warning signs people can look out for, such as people closing out relationships or giving away prized possessions.

Other warning signs can include:

  • Talking about wanting to die
  • Searching online for a way to kill themselves, including searching for a place to buy a gun
  • Talking about revenge or showing rage
  • Talking about being a burden to other people
  • Increasing use of alcohol and drugs
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Acting anxious, agitated or behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too much or not enough
  • Mood swings
  • Isolating themselves

However, Tipton said not everyone gives warning signs, and we shouldn’t feel blame for missing those signs.

“If something gets missed or they have chosen not to say anything, you know there are folks out there that isolate and just don’t give some of that to certain loved ones that would maybe reach out to help them,” said Tipton.

Morgan Tubbs with Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network said to be compassionate and put aside your judgments if you’re concerned a loved one will hurt themselves.

“You should be direct; that’s part of that non-judgment,” Tubb said. “Because it’s not this scary, taboo thing. It’s a reality that is a public health issue.”

However, Tubbs said conversations about mental health need to be more prevalent as well. She said it is okay to admit we are struggling and to seek help.

“A big part of suicide prevention is on the front end — breaking stigma, having these conversations, not being afraid to have these conversations, being vulnerable and not judging others when they are struggling,” said Tubbs.

In 2019, the latest year of available data, death by suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the US, according to the CDC WIS-QARS Leading Cause of Death Report. However, that number becomes more alarming for younger people. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for those aged 10 to 34 years.

World Suicide Prevention Day is on September 10; the Monday through Sunday surrounding that day are recognized as National Suicide week. This year, that is from Monday, Sept. 6 through Sunday, Sept. 12.

If you or a loved one needs help, there are both local and national hotlines as well as walk-in centers available 24/7, 365 days a year.

National Suicide Hotline: 1 (800) 273-8255 (TALK)

Frontier Health Crisis Hotline: 1 (877) 928-9062

Frontier Health Walk-in Center in Turning Point: 208 E. Unaka Ave. Johnson City

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