Back in July we featured the organization Alive on Purpose for its good work around suicide prevention and mental health awareness. Toyia and the Alive On Purpose team set out every day to remind us that life is really worth the living and we are all here on purpose. Monday they sent an email informing us that it is Suicide Awareness & Prevention Week. And we listened.
36,000 people in the U.S. commit suicide a year. It is the 4th leading cause of death for people 10- 55. Ninety percent of these individuals had some form of mental illness. Mental illness includes depression. We, black people, are the leading group to suffer from depression and the largest to go untreated. Why, because there is a stigma associated with mental health diagnoses. In the last year thousands of black people have suffered from terrible bouts of depression. Unfortunately, most suffer in silence and often times we don’t find out about their struggle until its too late; as in the cases of Don Cornelius and Chris Lighty. Other sufferers of depression, such as Ericka Kennedy, pass away without us every really knowing how but we know their battle with depression was real. Then there are those who cry out for help and their cries go unanswered; like 17-year-old Ashley Duncan. Ashley sent out several S-O-S messages via twitter but because her friends thought she was joking ignored her final post that said “I got a gun.”
Prevention begins with all of us.
“Preventing suicide is everybody’s business”, said Surgeon General Regina Benjamin on Monday at a press conference. The federal government is on a mission to help save 20,000 lives in the next five years; which comes with $55 million in grants for prevention efforts, a national lifeline, increasing veteran support and Medicare incentives for depression screenings. Not to mention Facebook is on the bandwagon to help save lives; recognizing its platform is a major agent in warning methods.
Prevention begins with all of us. We have to be aware of what our friends are saying- and not saying. If your head and heart are heavy with someone’s name call them. If your friend confides in you that they are sad, unusually down or want to die, encourage treatment such as therapy and or a visit to a mental health professional. Don’t let your fear of their reaction and the stigma of mental illness allow us to succumb.
Depression and other mental health issues aren’t anything to be ashamed of. We can help to keep one another alive. This week be your brother and sister’s keeper. Help to prevent suicide.