SEPTEMBER 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. September is suicide awareness and prevention month. For mental health advocates, it is something we should do every day. Suicide prevention is everyone’s responsibility.

All of us should be concerned about this. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) has reported that every year worldwide, over 800,000 people die from suicide. That means one death every 40 seconds. This is alarming.

Furthermore, here are more facts and figures shared by WHO and IASP recently:

• The number of lives lost each year due to suicide exceeds the number of death due to homicide and war combined.

• Suicide is the 15th leading cause of death globally. It is highest for people 70 years old and above. It is 5th leading cause of death among those aged 30 to 49 years old and 2nd leading cause of death in the 15-29 age group worldwide.

• It is estimated that for each adult who died of suicide, there were over 20 others who made suicide attempts.

• Globally, suicide rates are higher in males than females.

• Self-harm largely occurs among older adolescents, and globally is the 2nd leading cause of death for older adolescent girls.

• Suicide is the result of a convergence of risk factors including but not limited to genetic, psychological, social and cultural risk factors, sometimes combined with experiences of trauma and loss.

• The strongest risk factor for suicide is a previous suicide attempt

• Having a mental disorder (like depression and substance abuse disorders) is a major risk factor for suicide; impulsivity can also play an important role, especially after a life crisis.

• In addition, experiencing conflict, disaster, violence, abuse, bereavement or loss, and isolation are strongly associated with suicidal behavior.

• Suicide rates are elevated amongst vulnerable groups who experience discrimination, such as, refugees and migrants; indigenous peoples, lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex (LGBTI) persons and prisoners.

• Connect. Communicate. Care. These three words symbolize the heart of suicide prevention.

There will come a time when we will meet someone who may experience depression or anxiety. Depression makes one feel unworthy which can lead to suicidal thoughts. Anxiety is our body’s natural response to danger, an automatic response when we feel threatened, afraid, under pressure or in a stressful situation. This includes a pandemic.

We need to connect with this friend. This friend, who may be suffering from extreme sadness, he/she may feel unworthy and helpless or may be experiencing a panic attack. We also need to reach out to people who survived a suicide attempt. The “failure” might give them additional pain. We also need to be close to people whose family members died by suicide.

We need to talk to them, find out how they are. Give them our support. Tell them, they matter, that we care. We need to show that we care about him/her. Let us be their friend, be there for them. Assure them that it is better that they are alive. Tell them, they are not alone. YOU will be there for them without judgment or accusations. We will listen to them and refer them to a mental health professional.

Open communication is vital to preventing suicide. We need to talk about it. Advocate for it. Share ways to overcome depression or other illness associated with wanting to die by suicide. Let them know that there are people they can ask for help. The media has a big role in educating the people on what to do and where to go. Now, with social media, it is even easier to talk about suicide prevention on Facebook, Twitter and other applications. There are also a lot of webinars on Anxiety, Coping and other mental health issues.

Help is available in Bacolod City and Province of Negros Occidental.

Recently, the Provincial Health Office launched a Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Helpline for Negrenses amid the Covid-19. It says if you are feeling anxious or worried, you may contact these numbers: 0961-572-9197 and 0965-982-1851.

Other government institutions like Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital (CLMMRH) and the Bacolod City Mental Health Care Center have services for those who need help. There are a number of private hospitals/clinics/centers which offer psychological and psychiatric needs. We also have psychiatrists and registered psychologists in our province. Schools have a Guidance Office with competent and loving Guidance Counselors. To get a copy of the list of mental health services in Negros Occidental, email me at jet.octaviano@gmail.com.

Remember, depression is real, anxiety is real, mental illness is real but so is help, hope and healing.

Let’s all work together to prevent suicide.