September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and, coming up in a few weeks is Mental Illness Awareness Week.
It's probably not a coincidence those two fall so near to each other on the calendar. They often go hand-in-hand.
Sadly, there are still some vestiges around of the "old way" society views those with mental illness and those who commit, attempt or consider suicide. The stigma of those sufferers being "weak" or "defective" in some way has proven to be a difficult mindset to overcome.
But the reality is that these conditions are a lot more common than what many folks care to believe.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports some alarming facts that should hit close to home for most all of us.
• Some 7 percent of adults in the United States have depression.
• As many as one in five adults will experience mental illness this year -- 46.6 million people.
• Half of individuals who die by suicide have a diagnosed mental health condition, while another 40 percent of those may not be diagnosed, but have experienced symptoms.
• Mental illness does not discriminate -- it can affect anyone, no matter your race or ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, between 1999 and 2017, suicide rates have risen to the highest level in seven decades. That reflects a spike of more than 30 percent.
Many factors can influence people to consider suicide, whether it's stress on the job or at home, alcohol or drug abuse.
Kentucky is particularly hard-hit, as are other states that are currently fighting the war against opioid abuse, with some rates trending as high as a 40 percent increase since 1999. The rise in rates among young adults and adolescents are particularly alarming.
There have been plenty of painful local examples in recent years, of course, high-profile examples that have raised the awareness of the need to fight against suicide and to help those suffering with mental illness to get the treatment they need.
It's not an easy fight, and it takes a village. Entire families must be invested in seeing to it that their suffering members who have been diagnosed with mental illness are keeping up with their medications, doctor visits and support groups.
But as the statistic above showed, as many as 40 percent who commit suicide have not been diagnosed. As a result, we must be vigilant in watching over our loved ones and noticing their signs -- their cries for help.
Ignoring it and sweeping it under the rug, hiding them away someplace, does not work.
We have centuries worth of that failed approach, yet still the rates rise.
And for those of you suffering, whether diagnosed or undiagnosed with mental illness, or considering suicide or have a loved one who was taken by their own hand, know that you are not alone. There are resources available to help. You just need to take advantage of them, and know there are understanding people and professionals out there who are ready to lend a hand.
For more information, call the NAMI help line at 1-800-950-NAMI, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you are considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
We can get through this together.