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Monday Motivator: Spreading awareness for Suicide Prevention Month

Everyone has a role to play in preventing suicide, we do not have to be a mental health professional to make a difference or impact.

Stephanie Downey.JPG
Stephanie Downey
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The month of September is designated as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, a month to raise awareness for mental health and suicide prevention while celebrating life and promoting hope.

While suicide prevention is important to address year-round, Suicide Prevention Awareness Month provides a dedicated time to come together to raise awareness around this sensitive topic. Suicide prevention efforts seek to reduce factors that increase the risk for suicidal thoughts and behavior, and increase the factors that help strengthen, support, and protect people from suicide.

Everyone has a role to play in preventing suicide, we do not have to be a mental health professional to make a difference or impact. Over the last year mental health and wellness has come to the forefront of discussion for many people when it might not have previously. These increased conversations about mental health are a great step forward to staying connected with others, offering help, and letting people know how much they matter.

It is our human nature to want to connect and feel like we belong. It is a basic human need much like food, water and sleep. A research study from the University of Michigan found that the lack of a sense of belonging was a predictor for depression, even more so than feelings of loneliness or a lack of social support. An article from the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine emphasized the positive power of social connectedness on many aspects of health including weight management, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and depression.

I was recently reminded how much sharing a belonging message can create an impact. The community I live in hosts a suicide prevention walk and run every year. The 2019 T-shirts had a simple message on the front, “You Matter” in large letters. I happened to wear the T-shirt for a quick trip to the grocery store the other day to get some much needed essentials, milk, eggs and coffee, of course. While making my rounds down the aisles, two people, whom I didn’t know, commented on how much they liked the shirt. I do not know their personal story and I did not have the chance for a longer conversation with them but I could tell from the look in their face that the “You Matter” message made an impact on their day.

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As we journey through the month of September, I challenge you to ponder how you can share your own “You Matter” message with those around you and what that would look like. It could be as simple as telling family, friends and those around us that we love them, that we care and that they matter. We can also let others know they matter by increasing our own knowledge and awareness of what to look for when someone may be struggling with depression or having thoughts of suicide. We can make it a point to think about the language and words we use to talk about mental well-being, mental health, and suicide. Are the words we use perceived as respectful and caring to others or is there a better choice of words to use? We can practice our conversation skills and our ability to ask about suicide when we have concerns about someone. We can make sure we are aware of community support and crisis services to connect people to in times of need.

Members of the Minnesota State Suicide Prevention Taskforce have been working on a project to provide consistent, accurate, and appropriate messaging on crisis services to Minnesotans. The message “You Matter” was developed by the taskforce to emphasize the important role we all play in preventing suicide. The project included the development of a toolkit with a poster and postcard materials for use in communities. The You Matter Crisis Resources Toolkit provides guidance on how to use the resources.

For more information visit https://www.health.state.mn.us/communities/suicide/index.html .

Stephanie Downey is the Minnesota Department of Health’s representative for the Brainerd Region of Community Partners Preventing Suicide, which includes Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd and Wandea counties. She can be contacted at Stephanie.downey@state.mn.us
Related Topics: HEALTHNUTRITION
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