The current state of the world continues to test us.
And when someone we know in our tiny communities commits suicide, the impact ripples outward.
Economically, socially, physically and environmentally — from a global pandemic to storms wiping out power for thousands — people are feeling pushed to their limits. Our weekly sheriff’s log continues to have multiple mental health calls. With new restrictions on what deputies can do during those incidents and little access to psychiatric care in the San Juans, where can people turn?
If you or someone you know needs help, there are organizations and professionals who are very willing to assist you. It’s okay to ask for what you need. It’s okay to ask those you care about what it is they need.
San Juan County offers contact information for mental health and substance abuse resources at https://www.sanjuanco.com/1697/Resources-for-Mental-Health-Support.
Awareness about suicide is especially important due to the increased stress and anxiety people may be experiencing during this unprecedented era. Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States, ranking number ten and claiming the lives of 47,500 in 2019. This is more than double the number of homicides.
According to a New York Times story, while the rates declined 5 percent overall in 2020, studies show that the statistics increased among Black Americans and people of color.
“The decline came even as the number of unintentional overdose deaths rose dramatically during the pandemic. Some overdoses are classified as suicides; there is debate among researchers as to how many ought to be included,” reads the piece.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says stress during an infectious disease outbreak can cause fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, your financial situation or job, or loss of support services you rely on; changes in sleep or eating patterns; difficulty sleeping or concentrating; worsening of chronic health problems; worsening of mental health conditions and increased use of tobacco, and/or alcohol and other substances.
The Washington State Department of Health and the University of Washington’s Forefront Suicide Prevention have partnered with the state’s Health Care Authority, Department of Veteran Affairs, Department of Social and Health Services and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction to ask Washingtonians to #BeThe1To help prevent suicide.
The campaign asserts: “Physical distancing during COVID-19 doesn’t have to mean feeling alone.”
According to the DOH, normalizing conversation around mental health helps to break the stigma. Try the following steps with someone you are concerned about (https://intheforefront.org/LEARN/).
• Learn to recognize the warning signs.
• Empathize with the person you’re concerned about and listen to what they say.
• Ask them if they are thinking about suicide. It’s okay to ask someone directly.
• And if they say yes, they are, remove the danger — the method they’re thinking of using.
• Help them with next steps, such as calling or texting a crisis line.
The starting place can be just reaching out to loved ones to show them you care, checking in through a text and simply asking, “How are you?”
If you are in crisis or having thoughts of suicide, or if someone you know is in crisis, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or chat online, https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/. Confidential support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. For support via text on the Crisis Text Line, start a conversation by texting “HEAL” to 741741.