The month of September has long been designated National Suicide Prevention Month. Also included within this month are National Suicide Prevention Week, which ends today, and World Suicide Prevention Day, which was this past Monday, September 10.
As much as we might like to turn away from the figures, there are an average of one hundred and twenty-three suicides a day in the United States, where, across all age groups, suicide ranks as the tenth leading cause of death.
On Monday, the same day as World Suicide Prevention Day, thirty-year-old California pastor and mental health advocate Jarrid Wilson took his life, only hours after officiating at the funeral of a woman who’d died by suicide. Equally shocking was the suicide the same day of Gregory Eells, executive director of counseling and psychological services at the University of Pennsylvania. Like Wilson, Eells had worked tirelessly throughout his career to prevent suicide and, in particular, to improve the mental health of college and university students.
Clearly, even those who’ve dedicated their lives to eradicating the scourge of suicide can—and often do—succumb to their demons, possibly as a result of putting their own mental health second.
One of the goals of National Suicide Prevention Month is to encourage friends, loved ones—and even acquaintances—to reach out to those who may be at risk by asking direct questions, such as: are you thinking of harming yourself? (as uncomfortable as such a question may be.)
Another is to encourage those who may be at risk to seek professional help. The challenge, however, is that many of those who are most at risk are also highly adept at keeping their suicidal thoughts hidden. (This appears to have been the case with counselor Eells while Pastor Wilson spoke openly about his struggles with depression.)
The National Institute of Mental Health has declared suicide a major public health problem. And while this message could certainly be described as stating the obvious, state it—and face it—we must.