By David R. Shorey, East County Program Manager, Institute for Public Strategies
Photos courtesy of the National Institute of Mental Health
September 12, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) -- When the San Diego County Suicide Prevention Council sent an invitation to its monthly meeting in August, it came with a request.
“For those utilizing a Zoom background, we request that you refrain from using images of the Golden Gate Bridge or similar photos as this may be triggering for some individuals who have lost a loved one,” the invitation read. “We thank you for your understanding.”
That was a stark reminder of just how sensitive the topic of suicide can be. It’s a cause of death that is 100% preventable. The group was meeting to discuss its plans for National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in September, including Suicide Prevention Week and World Suicide Prevention Day.
It’s something they observe every year with the hope that one day it will no longer be necessary.
Suicide Numbers Dropped in 2019
Data from the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office shows there is a larger number of suicides now than there was 20 years ago. There were 323 suicides in 2000, 465 suicides in 2018 and 429 suicides in 2019. The number of people who were discharged from a hospital emergency room after attempting suicide increased 1.7% last year, according to the latest figures by the San Diego Suicide Prevention Council. The numbers from 2020 will be available next year.
Suicide often occurs among those with mental health issues, involves the misuse of drugs, alcohol consumption, or a combination of all three. Studies have shown an association between chronic marijuana use and increased rates of anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and schizophrenia. People who consider suicide have problems they think they can never overcome. They think that no one can help them, and that suicide is the only way out.
Those who are considering suicide may feel helpless, like there is nothing they can do to make things better; hopeless, thinking their problem cannot be solved by them or anyone else; worthless, thinking they're unable to help themselves or feeling like a failure; hateful toward themselves; like they are a burden to others; or as if the pain of living is too much to bear.
Suicide Prevention Resources are Available
For East County residents, Kumeyaay Family Services Prevention and Early Intervention PEI) is hosting a free virtual suicide prevention training with upcoming session on Sept. 18 and 25. For more information and to reserve your space, please contact Julie Woochuk at: (619) 445-1188 Ext. 217, (619) 536-2625, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
East County Residents can participate in a “Check You Mood Day” Oct. 8, which encourages folks to utilize resources to check their emotional and mental health well-being. Additional information can be found on the Live Well San Diego website.
The County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency developed a campaign called It’s Up to Us to help address mental health issues and increase awareness of suicide prevention. Free public education can be accessed through the Mental Health America of San Diego website where you can register for Mental Health First Aid training and certification.
Ongoing education efforts surrounding suicide not only focus on knowing the warning signs in others or yourself, but also helping survivors cope with the loss of a loved one by suicide. Knowing what words to use when discussing suicide prevention can go a long way in reducing or eliminating the stigma that surrounds the subject. Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention has a website dedicated to messaging.
Former military personnel who have seen and experienced the traumas of war can face unique challenges. The Disabled Veterans National Foundation (DVNF) provides support to disabled and at-risk veterans who leave the military wounded physically, psychologically or both.
The most important thing to remember if you are having suicidal thoughts or may know someone who might be, is that you are not alone. There is help. You can call the San Diego Access and Crisis Line at 1-888-724-7240 any time of day or night, any day of the year.