Oct. 10 was Mental Health Awareness Day. The day has come and gone but the help needed for those who are suffering from mental illness and suicidal thoughts is on the rise.
The call for help is increasing, particularly among the hundreds of thousands of suicide survivors in the U.S. In New York alone, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill are under fire for not doing enough to prevent the suicide deaths of 10 police officers so far this year. Nationally, 184 police officers have taken their lives this year. Some are calling it an “epidemic” among law enforcement.
But it’s not just police officers or those who perform high risk, or physically and mentally challenging jobs whose suicide rates are causing mental health experts to sound the alarm. Suicide rates are also growing among children. The National Institute of Mental Health reports suicide is the second leading cause of death among individuals between 10 and 34. And, mental health researchers are calling suicide an “urgent issue” among African American children ages 5-11 who experience suicide as the 10th leading cause of death, up from 14th two decades ago.
Each day there is an average of over 3,069 suicide attempts by young people in grades 9-12, while four out of five of these teens have given clear warning signs, according to the NIMH.
Public awareness is the key to addressing this problem and taking away the stigma faced by those who want help but are afraid or embarrassed to ask will also help. In the District, Mayor Muriel Bowser has tripled investment in her 2020 budget from $3 million to $9 million to support school- and community-based organizations to support mental health services. That’s a beginning and it demonstrates the urgency of the need for more mental health services in D.C.
Still, we cannot ignore a problem that many bury in behaviors to mask it including drug and alcohol abuse. Survivors play a role as well, once getting treatment for themselves, they can help others see and address what some may be missing.
Help must be made readily available and hope is the key to seeking it.