September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

The month of September is a time to bring awareness to suicide. New Mexico has the fourth highest rate of suicide in the nation.

Most of us have in some way been impacted by a suicide death or an attempt. Yet many people are reluctant to discuss pain about loss of a loved one, or to discuss the hopelessness they feel if experiencing thoughts of suicide.

Reducing the stigma around suicide is vital so that together we can work to improve this issue. Asking a direct and caring question about someone’s state of well-being then listening to the answer non-judgmentally is an effective way to help reduce and prevent suicide deaths.

Local organizations want you and all members of the community to know, you are not all alone. There is someone available to listen and to help find the support you need. 988 is a direct number you can dial if you are feeling any mental distress. It is possible to rekindle your hope in the future. There are caring people ready to listen.

The New Mexico suicide death rate was 79.3% higher than the U.S. rate. People of all age groups, income brackets, races and ethnicities, genders, and any other cultural or demographic grouping die by suicide – although there are disproportionately higher rates among several groups, including those who live in rural areas.

Over 40% of New Mexico high school youth reported on the recent Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey that they felt persistent sadness or hopelessness. Suicide is among the highest ten leading causes of death for those in all age groups; and for the ages groups of 10-14 and 25-34 suicide was the second leading cause of death.

Local counseling services and schools counselors, as well as Alamogordo Police Department’s Mobile Crisis Response Team are our community’s first line of defense in preventing suicide for those in crisis. Many resources exist, and we just need to help people access the support they need. Our collaborative has a list of local and state resources which can help someone who is experiencing emotional crisis to find a relevant support system. If you know anyone in immediate crisis, please have them call 988. There is a professional, caring, helpful person on the other end. The call is free and confidential. You can also text 1-855-466-7100 to chat by text, or you can use an app if you prefer, the NM Connect App.

There are ways we can reduce future suicide deaths. First, forgive yourself if you have missed the signs and have lost a friend or family member to suicide. It is not your fault when another person dies by suicide. Reach out for support if you are struggling with the loss of a loved one.

Take a few minutes to learn the warning signs, risk factors, and protective factors of suicide from the National Council for Suicide Prevention at https://www.take5tosavelives.org/take-5-steps. September is Suicide Awareness Month, and Sept. 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day, with a theme of “Creating Hope Through Action.”

Talk openly and listen with others. Know how to refer someone for help. Go with that person to find a helping professional if possible, or stay with them until the crisis has passed and a safety plan is in place. If the suicidal person is under 18 there are safety nets set up to help you with an intervention. For a child not in your own care you can dial #SAFE on your cell for immediate intervention. Otherwise, ensure there is an immediate intervention such as the school counselor, alerting their parent or caregiver, calling 988, or taking the child to the hospital.

To participate in the Behavioral Health Collaborative, or if you would like a complete resource list, or to learn more about local resources, contact Maureen.Schmittle@state.nm.us .

This article originally appeared on Alamogordo Daily News: September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month