As Mental Health Awareness Month draws to a close, I think about my friends’ son who died by suicide a few weeks ago. He was 16. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare, and my heart aches for my friends. This most awful of tragedies continuously haunts me. It’s impossible to imagine that someone who is 16—who has his whole life in front of him—could be in so much pain that he chooses to make such an irreversible decision.
If you research the statistics, you’ll see the suicide rate overall—after increasing in the last decade—is down. But suicide and suicide attempts are up among our youth. Although people of all ages are experiencing depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses (which includes addiction), the numbers are alarmingly high among our children. While none of this is new, COVID has exacerbated the problem. Yet it also has brought it to the forefront. Mental illness and addiction are finally receiving the attention they deserve. The shame and stigma are going away, and more people are talking about mental health.
So here’s my message: Please, please, please — if you need help, or if you know someone who does, get it. Make a phone call. Talk to someone. Do it for yourself, do it for your loved ones. If you are thinking about ending your life, or if you fear someone else is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255.
One more thing: No matter how lonely you feel, no matter how bad things might seem, everyone goes through hard times. You are not alone.
By Sheri Panokav, Communications Director
at The Blue Dove Foundation