Last Updated on September 27, 2023 by BVN
Trigger Warning: This article discusses the topic of suicide and suicide prevention.
September is recognized as National Suicide Prevention Month. In 2021, more than 48,000 Americans died as a result of suicide — that’s one death every 11 minutes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
During the month of September, mental health and suicide prevention organizations increase awareness and encourage discussion around the topic to destigmatize those who are struggling with this condition.
“It’s important just to recognize and highlight the amount of people that we’ve lost, or people that are currently struggling, and ways to just normalize mental health and suicide prevention all together,” said Carmen Diaz, who is on the California board of directors for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). Diaz has been volunteering and working with AFSP since 2012.
With National Suicide Prevention Month underway, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched the addition of American Sign Language (ASL) services through the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.
The three digit number was launched last summer in order to support those who are struggling with mental health issues or who are in crisis by shortening the original 1-800-273-TALK phone number.
The new ASL features will now help millions of callers who are deaf, hard of hearing or have hearing loss by using a videophone which transmits both video and audio. Earlier this year, the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline also introduced text and chat features for Spanish speakers.
“It is distressing to note that, in 2021, per the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Survey on Drug Use and Health, roughly 12.3 million adults and 3.3 million adolescents had serious suicidal thoughts,” Xavier Becerra, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement.
Diaz shared that this month is a time to learn different ways that people can get involved in supporting those who are struggling with mental health conditions and to remind those who are struggling that they’re not alone.
In addition to the 988 crisis line, there are several other resources for those who need support or who want to support others.
AFSP’s Inland Empire and Desert Cities Chapter hosts “Healing Conversations” for survivors and those who have lost someone to connect with experienced volunteers. These conversations are available in person, on the phone or by video chat.
Additionally, AFSP is hosting several “Out of the Darkness” community walks as a way to remember those who lost their lives and to support others. On Sept. 30, AFSP is hosting the Riverside County Walk at Fairmont Park. There are other planned walks in other regions across the Inland Empire.
“The purpose is to bring together people from all backgrounds who want to prevent suicide, or friends and families who have lost someone to suicide, including vulnerable individuals, mental health professionals, educators, students, community and business leaders, and many others to join together and help fight the suicide rates and just to have that sense of community,” Diaz explained.