World Suicide Prevention Day is recognized each year on Sept. 10. This year, we’ve seen notable names lost to apparent suicides such as Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain and Ellie Soutter to name a few. Suicide is such a problem that it is estimated that about 44,965 Americans take their lives each year, and every day, 123 Americans die by suicide.
While having a day to try and raise awareness to this epidemic is indeed a good start, the problem is one day is not enough. We need to have open conversations about suicide, depression and overall mental health all the time, 365 days a year. We need to end the stigma surrounding mental illness immediately or unfortunately, suicide will continue to needlessly end the lives of so many around us.
The statistics surrounding suicide and depression are sobering. Did you know that only half of all Americans experiencing an episode of major depression receive treatment? It’s heartbreaking to think that stigma might have stood in the way of treatment for so many, and still continues to stand in the way of people getting help. The truth is that almost 80 -90 percent of people seeking treatment for depression are treated successfully using therapy and/or medication.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, there is one death by suicide every 12 minutes. That’s five lives lost every hour. When we hear about celebrity suicide deaths like Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, we grieve. Their status helps put suicide in the spotlight until it fades away again, but someone still loses the battle every 12 minutes.
We can provide hope and support by starting a conversation. Reach out to help normalize the topic. Don’t hesitate to seek treatment for mental illnesses. Someone suffering from diabetes wouldn’t hesitate to seek help for their physical condition. The same normalization needs to be visible in the mental health community. If you suspect someone you love might be suicidal, here are some things you can do to help.
Talk: Again, help normalize the topic by conversation. Simply asking someone if they are thinking about suicide is a good step. Never promise to keep their suicidal thoughts a secret. Be open and non-judgmental. Encourage immediate professional intervention through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. It is available 24-hours a day.
Connect: Professional help is essential. Don’t just suggest it because they might be unlikely to follow through. Do it for them. Someone who might be suicidal could be suffering from deep depression, mania and other conditions that sometimes prevent clarity. Do the research and help get them set up with an appointment with a mental health professional like a clinical psychologist, psychiatrist or licensed counselor.
Support: If someone in your life is contemplating suicide, constantly remind them that there is hope. There are many successful treatments which can help turn how their feeling around. Life is worth living. Continue to support and communicate with them. You can increase their feelings of connectedness and share your ongoing support. There is evidence that even a simple form of reaching out, like sending a card or email, can potentially reduce their risk for suicide. Remember, loneliness is a major cause of depression.
This World Suicide Prevention Day, let’s try to end this horrifying epidemic once and for all. The more we continue the conversation and bring attention to it, the more people we will reach and save.
This guest editorial is written by Reshmi Saranga M.D., a psychiatrist and founder of Saranga Comprehensive Psychiatry. https://www.sarangapsychiatry.com/