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If your mental health is suffering, you are not alone

It’s extremely hard to talk about mental health. There’s an unfair stigma. But you’re not alone, an estimated 26% of Americans 18 and older suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder.

September is National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month. The conversation around mental health and suicide needs to change. One caring conversation can be the difference.

Recognize the risk factors or characteristics that make it more likely that someone might consider suicide: people with mental health disorders, substance abuse, hopelessness, impulsive behavior, history of trauma or abuse, major physical illness, previous suicide attempts, job or financial loss, loss of relationship, lack of social support or sense of isolation, stigma associated with asking for help, and lack of healthcare are some of the risks.

Don’t ignore the warning signs, they may help you determine if a loved one is at risk, especially if the behavior is new, has increased or is related to a painful event: Talking about wanting to die, looking for ways to kill themselves, talking about feeling hopeless, talking about feeling trapped, talking about being a burden, increased use of alcohol or drugs, acting anxious or agitated, behaving recklessly, sleeping too much or too little, isolating themselves, showing rage or talking about revenge and extreme mood swings.

You can be the difference in getting someone help that they need.

Ask — are you thinking about suicide?

Keep them safe — find things to establish immediate safety.

Be there — be present either physically or on the phone.

Help them connect — connect them with community resources.

Follow up — Follow-up to see how they’re doing.

Veterans are at a much higher risk for developing untreated mental health conditions. The risk of suicide for veterans is 22% higher than civilians and veterans that live in rural areas have a 20% higher risk than those living in suburban or urban areas, according to the Veterans’ Administration for Rural Health.

Help show people that no matter what they’re going through, life is worth living and they are worth saving.

Let them know it’s OK to not be OK, that it’s OK to seek help and it’s OK to admit you’re struggling.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, year round by calling 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please do not hesitate to call.

It may very well mean the difference between life and death.

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