September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

For this month’s mental health moment, we have a special opportunity to highlight a nationally recognized period to provide suicide awareness. This is a topic is crucial to have within Rotary as nobody is immune from experiencing the effects of mental illness and/or addiction. Many of us know someone such as a friend, family member, co-worker or even a Rotarian that has attempted or died by suicide.  The disease does not discriminate, and to prevent it, neither can we.
This month, we encourage everyone to take a little time to educate and increase awareness of the signs of someone at risk for suicide and the resources available to help those who are struggling.

Opportunities to Provide Awareness

We encourage all our District 5150 clubs to take a moment this month to provide awareness with our members. This can take place on any of the recognized days and can be done by providing a mental health moment, posting on social media, or having a speaker at your club.
National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month was first declared in 2008. Since then, September has been a time to acknowledge those affected by suicide, raise awareness, and connect individuals with suicidal ideation to treatment services. This is a special time when mental health advocates, prevention organizations, survivors, allies, and community members unite to promote suicide prevention awareness.
World Suicide Prevention Day is September 10th. It is a time to remember those affected by suicide, to raise awareness, and to focus efforts on directing treatment to those who need it most.
National Suicide Prevention Week is the Monday through Sunday starting with World Suicide Prevention Day. It is a time to share resources and stories, as well as promote suicide prevention awareness.  By drawing attention to the problem of suicide in the United States, the campaign also strives to reduce the stigma surrounding the topic, as well as encourage the pursuit of mental health assistance and support people who have attempted suicide.

Warning Signs That Someone Is At Risk For Suicide

  • Feeling extreme depression, guilt, or shame.
  • Feeling hopeless.
  • Talking about, or preoccupation with, death or suicide.
  • Preparing for death, such as updating/preparing a will, giving away possessions, or taking steps to access lethal means (buying a firearm, acquiring quantities of pills/medication, researching ways to die).
  • Exhibiting a dramatic change in behavior, including withdrawal from friends or usual activities, increased alcohol/drug use, difficulties in sleeping or eating, decreased self-care.

What should I do if I suspect someone is experiencing a crisis or is hurting? 

If you believe someone needs help, we encourage you to follow the ACE (Ask, Care, Escort) suicide prevention model, with these easy-to-remember steps:
Ask – Ask, “Are you thinking of killing yourself?” Although it may feel awkward, research shows that people having thoughts of suicide feel relief when someone asks them in a caring way.
Care – Show you care. The context of caring makes it a lot easier to ask the hard questions about suicide. By actively listening and engaging, without judgment, you are showing that you care – this might just be enough to help the person feel relief and that they are not alone.
Escort – When someone acknowledges that they are feeling suicidal or hopeless, care enough to connect them to the nearest helping resource. Do not leave them alone! If possible, separate them from methods of harm.

Resources Available

There are many amazing organizations that are fighting the good fight to help raise awareness and provide support.  Here two of them we would like to mention. 
9-8-8 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline – Similar to dialing 9-1-1 for a medical emergency, you can dial 9-8-8 for a mental health crisis.  The 9-8-8 Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals in the United States. 
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of American affected by mental illness. 

Support Mental Health and Wellness

District 5150 has taken a pledge to focus on mental health and has a group of committed Rotarians working towards making a difference in the arena of mental health here in our own district.  We are working towards creating a District 5150 Rotarian Action Group (charter pending!) and need your help. If you are interested in being a part of the discussion and solution, please join us. Our next meeting is September 19, 2023.  In addition, we all have the opportunity to join a Rotary team for NAMIwalks in both Marin on October 7th and San Mateo on October 14th to show our support for those suffering from mental illness. For more information contact Jenny Bates.
About the author:  Henry Choi is a proud Rotarian of Ignacio Rotary Club and in District 5150.  He is a member of the Rotarian Action Group for Mental Health that is forming in our district.  
About the Mental Health Matters blog series:
As you know Rotary International President Gordon McAnally has inspired us to think about Creating Hope in the World and we can do so by ensuring we are practicing caring for ourselves and others this Rotary year. 
Each month we will take a moment to share a mental health moment to inspire you on how you can practice caring for yourself and others.  View our other Mental Health Matters blog posts.