Earlier this week, US President Barack Obama laid out plans and proposals aimed at curbing the epidemic of gun violence in the United States.
His comments included a desire to help people living with mental illness get the care they need. Our friends at the North Carolina chapter of NAMI were interviewed and provided comments for this story. See the video below, and you can click here for the full article accompanying the video.
Our thanks to NAMI and all of you who are providing your expertise on this critical issue. It’s a delicate subject; on one hand we must have conversations about mental illness and firearms especially as it pertains to suicide and also gun access by those who may be experiencing intense pain, clouded judgment, or issues of perception due to a mental illness. It’s imperative that communities have the tools they need to help at-risk individuals and others who may be suffering, with more funding for intervention, proper care, community training, and other services.
At the same time as we have these discussions, we must be extremely careful not to inadvertently suggest that those experiencing mental illness are inherently violent or should be feared, as this is categorically untrue and not supported by statistics, and it only adds to the prejudices and stigma associated with mental illness that keeps so many from getting the help they need. We’re inspired by how so many of your organizations are intelligently contributing to this conversation and striking that delicate balance so well.
Want to add to this discussion? Share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment below! Is your agency taking action on this topic or participating in events, providing expert commentary, or otherwise taking part in the discussion on this topic? We’d love to hear about it so we can highlight your work on our blog. You can comment below, or .
The article discusses several theories on potential contributing factors including:
Ease of access to high lethality means like firearms
A “Cowboy up” attitude to addressing problems, and resistance to asking for help
Limited access to sufficient mental health care — The Department of Health and Human Services says 55% of counties in the United States have no psychologists, psychiatrists or social workers
Stigma of mental health treatment exacerbated by lack of anonymity
If interested, you can read the full article here.
What do you think of the findings outlined in the article, and the contributing factors they pose? If your helpline is in a rural area, would you agree with what’s outlined in the article? How is your community addressing these issues? We’re interested to hear what you think, leave us a comment!
We’re very happy to help spread the word that the Bell Let’s Talk initiative has been extended for five years, with funding increased to $100 million!
Read more here. You can also read Bell’s announcement here.
This is excellent news for Canadian mental health initiatives. Congratulations to all the agencies that benefit from this campaign, and we look forward to participating in Bell Let’s Talk for years to come!
Suicide Prevention Week will be here soon, recognized from September 7th – 13th with World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10th. There are lots of ways that crisis centers or the general public can recognize this upcoming event.
Join an Out of the Darkness Walk near you. These walks help raise awareness as well as money for research and education. During the month of September, particularly during suicide prevention Week, dozens of these walks will be held. Find one near you and register today.
Donate to a suicide prevention service in your area. You can donate to organizations that focus on research or education, though we humbly suggest you consider donating to a helpline that provides direct help and suicide prevention to those in need. Whether you’re in Canada, the US, or another country, there are suicide prevention lines near you that would greatly appreciate your donation and will put it to excellent use in directly preventing suicide in your community.
Volunteer for a suicide prevention service. These services are always looking for qualified volunteers to answer phones, help with fundraising efforts, and more. Suicide prevention month is a great time to start the application process. Suicide prevention centers could also run volunteer recruitment campaigns to coincide with the heightened awareness and attention.
Fundraise for your local suicide prevention helpline. Much like volunteer recruitment, the increased attention and awareness of suicide prevention will mean that many people will be compelled to do something to help the cause, and so your message and request for support will resonate with your community.
Educate yourself on the topic of suicide. Did you know that suicide is the 9th leading cause of death in Canada and 10th in the United States, or that the elderly are at the highest risk of suicide? By learning the notable statistics, risk factors, warning signs, and myths about suicide, you’ll be empowered to do more and share that knowledge with others.
Spread the word with social media. Whether you use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or all of the above, post information in support of suicide awareness and prevention. Try sharing some of those facts you learned, or share a personal story about how suicide has touched your life, or the life of someone you care about. Discussing suicide goes a long way in reducing stigma and bringing the issue out into the open where it belongs! If you run a helpline, you can ramp up your social media presence as well by sharing facts about your helpline, success stories, requests for support, suicide myths vs. facts, etc.
Alert the media and use your expertise or experience as a helpline agency to do a story on suicide prevention in your community and how people can be helped by contacting you. Agencies that have texting and live chat services always have a great angle for contacting the media to do a story on how those struggling with suicidal thoughts can use those services if they don’t want to call on the phone.
Whether you take one of these actions, or do something different, it’s important to recognize suicide prevention week. Your actions will show others that you care about raising awareness of suicide, and preventing it.
One year ago today the world lost a beloved actor, comedian, and humanitarian to suicide. For many people this was the first time suicide touched their life, and for others it was a reminder of painful losses or struggles they personally experienced in their own lives. Universally Robin Williams’ death ignited a conversation about suicide, recovery from substance abuse, depression, and other mental illnesses. Many helplines reported increased call volume for weeks and months following his death.
May is Mental Health Month in the US, and May 4 – 10th is Mental Health Week in Canada. It’s a fitting time for individuals, organizations, businesses, and governments to learn more about mental health, and reflect on how we can all better respond to the issues.
There are great toolkits available from both Mental Health America and the Canadian Mental Health Association that can help your organization celebrate these events while also spreading awareness, education, and reducing the prejudices and stigma that surround the topics of mental health and mental illness.
We wanted to share this touching blog by Paul Gionfriddo of Mental Health America, telling the story of his family’s experience with mental illness and homelessness.
By Paul Gionfriddo
There are half a million homeless people with serious mental illnesses in desperate need of help yet underserved or ignored by our health and social-service systems. That number can seem overwhelming, but for me, it’s all about one person: my son Tim.
Tomorrow is Tim’s 30th birthday, and I wish I could spend it with him. But I don’t know where he is, so this year I’ll have to settle for the memories of his childhood birthdays. Tim was diagnosed with schizophrenia over two decades ago, and has been homeless on the streets of San Francisco for the last 10. I am a former state legislator, a former mayor, a CEO of a national organization…and even I couldn’t prevent it. Because people with mental illness become homeless as a result not of bad choices but of bad public policy.
There are many differences between me and Tim…I’m in my 60s, he’s half my age. I’m 5’9”, he can appear towering at 6’ 5”. I’ve got graying hair, his hair is dark. I’m white, he’s black. But all of those difference don’t really matter…the only reason Tim is homeless and I’m not is because he has a mental illness. That’s it. Our mental health system has failed him and countless others, and it’s time to change that.
So I can’t turn back time. I can’t spend his 30th birthday with my son. I will pray as I do every day that he is safe and that one day we can get him the help he so desperately needs. Until then, I’m going to keep fighting just like Tim does every day. I’m going to fight to change our mental health care system, to work to get people the help they need when they need it, and to get this country talking and addressing mental illness before Stage 4. I will continue to fight for Tim and for the millions like him affected by mental and substance use conditions who have not had a voice for far too long.
You can read Paul’s blog here, and also get other information on mental health, mental illness, and other topics on Mental Health America’s website.
I distinctly remember the first time I learned the truth about a common myth related to suicide. It was nearly 14 years ago, and I was sitting with my fellow would-be hotline volunteers in our training class, ready to tackle the lesson we were all most nervous about: Suicide. We filled out a pre-test, designed to gauge our base knowledge about the topic, and see what sorts of preconceptions we were bringing with us to our volunteer experience. The true or false quiz seemed simple enough to me at the time, a college junior who had been through her share of advanced psychology classes and was about a year from graduation, in spite of those classes having provided very little mention of suicide. I arrived at one that gave me pause. “True or False: The suicide rate increases around the holidays.”
I was a little stumped. “Gosh…I feel like I hear a lot about suicide during the holiday season,” I thought to myself. “And I know I’ve heard that statistic…somewhere. And hey, what time of year is more stressful for people than that whole period between Thanksgiving and the New Year? It makes sense. True.” My pencil checked the box.
Well (spoiler alert!) I was wrong. We all listened intently to the correct answers and found that much of what we thought was true about suicide was, in fact, false. And I remember feeling almost angry about this, like why was this whole topic so taboo, so secretive, that complete fallacies could be out there in the universe parading around as truths all these years. But that particular myth about the holidays was really stuck in my craw.
So stuck, in fact, that it’s become a running joke between me and my husband because he’s been witness to my missionary-like commitment to setting the record straight. I yell at the TV when I see a show reinforcing the myth. We’d be at a party and someone would find out where I worked and inevitably I’d get lots of questions about suicide, mental health, and other topics. Without a doubt someone would ask if it’s true, or make a comment about how more suicides happen around the holidays. My eyes would widen (another potential convert to help spread my gospel of truth!) as I got to explain (my husband might prefer the term “lecture”) that this was false, and that December can actually be a month where there are fewer suicides, but that springtime does seem to be a time where we lose more people to suicide than other times of year.
In addition to the fact that falsehoods in general just bug me, something about this one would set me over the edge, and I think it’s because I feel it’s actually a bit dangerous to have myths such as this one circulating.
What ends up happening is that people continue to feel there is a relationship (look at all these articles that come out about suicide in December, it must be true!) and I think, from that, two things happen.
First, attention to the topic of suicide is heightened at a time of year when incidents are typically at their lowest. Again, awareness is a good thing anytime, but where are all these articles during the rest of the year, particularly in springtime through summer when the incidents of suicide actually do increase? We end up with an abundance of articles and material when the myth creates a demand for content yet incidents are at their lowest, and a lack of attention when they’re at their highest in the spring and the public’s heightened awareness and knowledge of prevention methods could especially be put to good use.
Second, I think the perpetration of this myth promotes a sort of romanticism of, or glamorizes the idea of a holiday suicide. While you cannot put the thought of suicide in someone’s head by simply talking about it (another myth we frequently try to squash), irresponsible reporting of suicide in the media can contribute to the contagion phenomenon, which is very real. This idea that the holidays are a “good” time or a normal time to complete one’s suicide plan, or that a person “should” feel extra depressed, lonely, and susceptible to their thoughts of suicide this time of year can put someone already contemplating suicide in an especially vulnerable place.
It’s true that the holidays can be a stressful time of year. For someone who is already lonely, depressed, or otherwise suffering it can be a tough time. But there’s no evidence to suggest that this results in more people ending their own life around the holidays. I hope everyone will join me in what’s become a personal crusade to stop this myth in its tracks, and replace it with more productive information and education towards suicide prevention all year round.
We love sharing stories of the great work you and your volunteers and staff are doing in communities all around the world. This week we noticed this article in the Toronto Star highlighting the work of the Good2Talk Program, a partnership between ConnexOntario, Kids Help Phone, Ontario 211 and the Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health.
The transition to post-secondary education can be a tough one for many youth. Stress comes from all sides, from overwhelming tasks at university, time management issues, social and romantic struggles, pressure to get good marks, financial struggles, being away from family and other support systems, and much more. All of these issues can be compounded for students who may additionally be living with diagnosable mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety.
Good2Talk aims to provide these students with a free and confidential place to talk, where they can be connected with professional counselling, information and referrals to mental health, addictions, and other human services, and receive general listening and suicide prevention services. Read more…
Back in August we blogged about how many crisis lines had been in the news recently speaking about suicide prevention and a spike in calls following Robin Williams’ death.
It turns out that for many helplines, there continues to be an increase in calls compared to what was seen before the actor’s suicide on August 11. This week Newsweek filed a report stating that several helplines still haven’t seen their call volume return to normal.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, whose number was widely shared and publicized after Williams’ death, saw calls to their network increase from around 3,500 per day before the incident to 7,400 the day after. Still two months later they’re seeing about 200 more calls per day than what is considered standard. Other helplines report similar increases.
You can read the full article here. Has this increase in calls lead to more suicides being prevented? We hope so, but as the article says it will be awhile before we’ll have any definitive answers on that. In the meantime we can hope that the raised awareness about the work of suicide hotlines, and the outpouring of support and publicizing these numbers, has indeed resulted in more people getting help.