Have you experienced trauma, suffered from depression, struggled with addiction, experienced loneliness, or suffered from a mental illness? According to Mental Health Daily,the nearly 47,000 Americans who died by suicide last year experienced similar struggles.

This week, September 8-14, is National Suicide Prevention Week, but the efforts to end suicide are not limited to just one week. According to the National Institutes of Mental Health(2018), suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, and the 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 10-34. In Florida alone, 3,552 people died by suicide last year. People are taking their lives at an alarming rate; so, what can be done? 

First, you start taking about it. Suicide is often a difficult topic to address, but it is necessary. If the door is not open to these conversations, individuals dealing with trauma, depression, or addiction will not have the opportunity to express their emotions and ultimately find the care they need to overcome. With discussion comes clarity, and with clarity comes the ability to make a better choice.

You can also educate yourself and share resources with those who need them.  SMA Healthcare believes that quality education empowers all people to make a positive difference in the life of someone they know. SMA currently has two free educational opportunities for the general public to help recognize the signs of suicidal thinking and equip individuals with knowledge and strategies needed to respond to a mental health crisis. QPR stands for Question, Persuade, and Refer — the 3 simple steps anyone can learn to help save a life from suicide.  Mental Health First Aid is an eight-hour training certification course which teaches participants a five-step action plan to assess a situation, select and implement interventions, and secure appropriate care for the individual. It introduces participants to risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems, builds understanding of their impact and overviews common treatments. 

SMA also has a 24/7 Access Center to direct individuals of all ages to services within SMA and a Crisis Line for individuals under the age of 25 in Volusia and Flagler counties who are feeling depressed, alone, suicidal, or bullied. Call (800) 539-4228 to be connected to either service. Nationally, The National Institute of Mental Health has a succinct 5-step process outlined on their website for suicide prevention. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) provides 24/7 free, confidential support for people in distress, and prevention and crisis resources.

What’s the local impact of the work being done?  In 2017, Flagler County had the highest suicide rate in the state; Volusia County was ranked 8th. Not wanting these statistics to become the norm, SMA Healthcare applied for a grant from the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Adult Zero Suicide, with the goal of identifying individuals in crisis and linking them to suicide prevention services. In 2018, Flagler County’s rank fell to 8thand Volusia County’s rank fell to 28th. Thanks to collaboration with community partners and services in this area, there has been reduction in suicides in Northeast and Central Florida.

National Suicide Prevention Week is an important time to focus on how you can help end suicide in the United States.  Make today the day you educate yourself, share resources with someone who needs them, and be there for someone experiencing crisis. Change “what can you do?” to “what you can do” to save a life.