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October 28, 2021
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Mental health awareness week: Professional counselors ready to help

By: Irene Hilsendager
October 1, 2021

Our small city of Rohnert Park felt a tragedy last week that no one wants to experience. Condolences to the family during their grieving period.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 10-19 in the United States and rates of youth suicide and self-injury hospitalization are on the rise, especially among younger adolescents.

A 2019 survey estimated that about 1 in 5 high school students nationwide considered suicide in previous years.

Suicide risk is higher for some groups than others. Female youth attempt suicide more often but young men are more likely to die from suicide.

Nationally, American Indians or Alaskan Native young people have the highest suicide rate among racial and ethnic groups. Sexual and gender minority young people are more likely to occupy the thoughts of suicidal behavior than their non-LGBTQ teens. Other common factors for youth suicide include mental illness, past suicidal attempts, a family history or mental disorders, poor family communication, stressful life events, means to lethal access and exposure to suicidal behavior of others.

With mental health month on the horizon, these are ways to build connections and get help. Spend time with family and friends. Try not to isolate yourself. Go to events with friends. Get involved with your community. Get out and volunteer with others from the community.

Mental health problems are a huge part of suicide. Find help early.

Common signs of mental health problems are nothing makes you happy anymore. You may feel sad and hopeless for a long length of time. Sometimes you feel that you can’t cope with many of the things that happen in daily life. Do you feel anxious, stressed out or scared for months on end? Are you noticing strange things that won’t disappear? Do you hear voices that others don’t hear? Are you eating or drinking more or less than usual? Do you dread going to school or work? Are you avoiding family by staying in your room for days and do you feel that you are run down, always tired, or sick to your stomach? If you see any of these things, check with a doctor or professional.

Many people feel that they are all alone and that no one else has this problem. Talk to someone and they may tell you they also have gone through the same things but with speaking to family and friends it does help.

Losing a loved one by suicide is extremely hard. You will keep asking yourself, could I have done more to help them. You will probably feel ashamed and angry as you do not understand why things were going on in this fashion. 

You do not need to have a mental illness to think about suicide. Some people do so because they don’t know what else to do. Some people go into a dark space but don’t know how to get rid of those feelings. Talking honestly about suicide is a good way to find out if someone needs help.

A few ways to cope after a loss of one to suicide is to tell yourself it is ok to feel many things. Feelings are real. Find a support group and talk about it.

Some people will talk openly about thoughts of suicide but again many people will keep their feelings a secret.

Some warning signs become apparent when the person talks about killing themselves. Others may use more drugs and alcohol and tell others there is no reason to live. Some have a hard time controlling anger or want to be left alone and big mood changes are evident.

There are many myths floating around about suicide however someone dies by suicide almost every day. One in every nine people have had thoughts about suicide. People who die by suicide do not necessarily want to end their lives. They just want to get rid of bad things in their lives.

A suicide attempt does show someone needs help and people who attempt a suicide often think it will stop the pain and suicide is the only way to stop the pain as feelings are real and very hard to deal with.

There are several places to seek help. The Wellness & Advocacy Center, 2245 Challenger Way, Santa Rosa, 707-565-7800; Petaluma Peer Recovery Project, 5350 Old Redwood Hwy., #600, Petaluma, 707-765-127-; Interlock Self Help Center, 1033 4th St., Santa Rosa, 707-546-4481.

These programs receive funding through the voter-approved Mental Health Services Act. The Buckelew Suicide Prevention Program’s hotline offers 24/7 free and confidential crisis support for calls having thoughts of suicide as well as friends and family worried about a loved one.

You have probably heard about rising suicide rates in the news. Right now suicide rates among young people have reached the highest levels since 2000. Suicide is preventable and there are things you can do to support others and help change statistics.

Whether you have a child at home or work with young people, it is important to check in on them and their mental health. Many adolescents go through moody phases and withdrawals, you should look for professional help if your child is showing signs of depression or other mental health issues.

The LGBTQIA+ community is full of people who have experienced similar ups and downs. Talk to someone who understands how you are struggling and how to cope during these dark times and feel understood and supported.

If you or someone in the family feels depressed, suicidal or in a crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255,

Mental Prevention Awareness week starts Oct. 3. During the first week of October NAMI and participants across the country raise awareness of mental illness, fight discrimination, and provide support.

There is a local National Alliance on Mental Illness office located at 182 Farmers Ln., Santa Rosa. 866-960-6264 if you feel the need to talk with professionals.

If you are feeling stressed, worried, or frustrated about COVID-19, call the CalHOPE Warm Line to connect you with people who offer emotional support and coping mechanisms. Call 833-317-4673 to talk to a peer counselor.

In conclusion, men and women differ in the pattern of psychological characteristics that predict suicide ideation and, in the factors, predicting vulnerability. Suicide prevention strategies need to take account of gender differences.