Each September, National Suicide Prevention Month is recognized as we draw attention to the causes, warning signs, and treatment options for those affected by this tragedy. You may think to yourself that this annual campaign is certainly important, but how does it impact you? The truth is, we can all help to reduce and prevent suicide.
As you know, the Second District is home to thousands of veterans. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, an average of 20 veterans die by suicide every day – a rate of 1.5 times higher than non-veteran adults. I have spent my tenure in Congress fighting for better care of our veterans and sponsoring legislation to address these significant issues. We cannot allow suicide rates to be just a number. We must do what we can to ensure we are all educated on this crisis in order to help prevent it.
Here are some ways in which you can do your part to assist with suicide prevention:
- Know the risk factors. A number of factors can point to someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts including anxiety, alcohol or substance abuse, hopelessness, self-isolation, impulsive or aggressive tendencies, loss of relationships, family history of suicide, and more.
- Know the warning signs. There are many warning signs including an individual ominously talking about death, having no purpose, feeling trapped, behaving recklessly, withdrawing themselves, mood swings, and many others.
- Contact a professional. Although it may be a difficult decision to make, it is important that you get help for someone you know is suffering. You can call 1-800-273-8255 to find available local resources or even encourage your loved one to call themselves. If you or someone you know is in an emergency, always call 911 immediately.
During these unprecedented times, it is critical that we pay close attention to mental and public health. Suicide is among the leading cause of death in the United States, and the national suicide rate reached historic highs prior to the pandemic. These troubling thoughts can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, or background. The National Alliance on Mental Illness HelpLine reported a 65% increase in communication over the phone and online since March, according to a recent study.
I encourage you to reach out to someone you are worried about and have the courage to check on them. Sometimes a simple “Are you okay?” is enough to make all the difference in the world. If you are struggling personally, please text the Crisis Text Line at 741741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 to be connected to someone who can help. Both resources are available 24 hours, seven days a week, and they are free and confidential. Let’s work together to prevent suicide.
Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.