Rena Fitzgerald, MIT, MHP, wrote this op-ed during September 2020's National Suicide Prevention Month.
I think about suicide when I see someone crying in the park. I think about suicide when a teen tells me they are anxious because they are under too much pressure to perform and make their parents happy. I think about suicide when a father tells me he is worth more to his family dead than alive.
Why should you think about suicide? Because suicide is preventable and yet is the second leading cause of death for youth in Washington state and the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. In 2018 there were 1.2 million suicide attempts, and 48,344 people died by suicide. We have lost too many people to suicide right here, in Snohomish County. You can help to spread awareness and share that help is available 24/7 for those experiencing any kind of crisis to reduce the occurrence of suicide in our communities.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, crisis lines across the county have seen an increase in call volumes and the need for crisis services is expected to continue to rise. As many of our neighbors face fall with more financial stress, and parents struggle to maintain jobs while caring for their kids and managing their education – often with reduced access to services, programs, and support – suicide prevention and awareness are critically important.
You are not alone. For over 30 years, Volunteers of America Western Washington has operated crisis lines focused on suicide prevention. Our professionally trained counselors are available to speak with you 24/7 and provide you with emotional support and connect you to resources in the community. You do not have to wait until you believe your crisis is “bad enough” to call us. We want to talk with you as soon as you feel the need. We want to help you before suicide becomes perceived as the solution to ending your pain. We want to help you navigate the frightening experience of wondering if someone you care about could be thinking about suicide and not knowing what to do.
Because suicide prevention awareness is so crucial to our communities, we urge you to check in with those you care about, help keep them safe, and be there to help them get connected to professionals who can offer the care they need to recover. Help is a phone call away. Please do not wait to contact the crisis line.
Facts about suicide:
Suicide is complex. There are almost always multiple causes, including mental illnesses that may not have been recognized or treated. However, these illnesses are treatable.
Mental disorders and/or substance abuse have been found in 90 percent of people who have died by suicide.
Suicide is a response to intense, emotional pain, that results in feelings of hopelessness and of burdensomeness.
Depression, anxiety, and suicidal crises are livable and survived by most who get help.
Most people who survive suicide attempts report that they did not want to die, instead they did not believe there was any other way to end their pain.
Simple ways to help raise awareness that suicide is preventable:
Be aware of warning signs and risk factors and know how to respond when you suspect someone could be in crisis and/or thinking about suicide. A great way to accomplish this is through the American Foundations for Suicide Prevention’s Talk Saves Lives online presentation. Visit www.afsp.org for more information or to register for a presentation.
Join Volunteers of America Western Washington’s You Are Not Alone campaign on Facebook and Instagram in September and share posts with your network.
Share the regional and national crisis line phone numbers on social media and in conversation when it sounds like someone could benefit from talking with a counselor.
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, increased stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic, or feeling like a burden, reach out to talk with a counselor today:
24-hour local crisis line: 800-584-3578
24-hour chat service: www.imhurting.org
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (8255)
Help is a phone call away.
Rena Fitzgerald serves as the Crisis Services Senior Program Manager for Volunteers of America Western Washington. She has over 18 years of experience in crisis intervention and suicide prevention and is identified by Washington State as a Mental Health Professional. She is active in community education regarding mental health issues and works closely with public schools to reduce youth suicide by providing suicide awareness instruction to students, staff, and parents. She is an active member of the Youth Intervention and Response Team and Child Death Review committee in Snohomish County.