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No One Is Immune to the Threat of Suicide

This week, the world mourned the deaths of designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, two well-known, successful professionals who, by all accounts, were living happy lives full of fame and fortune.

If nothing else, these tragedies drive home the message that mental health does not discriminate and mental illness is a chronic disease No amount of money or popularity can make a person immune to depression or anxiety.

It is normal for people – children and adults – to experience periods of sadness or despair because of situations in their lives. Stress from personal relationships, career, or financial challenges, health issues and other matters can certainly cause individuals to feel as if there is no hope for things to turn around. But we are here to let everyone know that, when these moments occur, there is help available. Each day, we strive to encourage people to understand that there is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to admitting the need for mental health support. In fact, seeking support can be straight forward and help increase one’s resilience along with overall wellness. The result of seeking treatment and support can be life-saving.

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 45,000 Americans age 10 and older died by suicide in 2016. Locally, 153 lives were lost to suicide in Philadelphia during that same year, an average of 3 deaths by suicide per week. While our local rate is lower than the national suicide mortality rate, the Philadelphia Suicide Prevention Task Force, a division of DBHIDS, believes one suicide is one too many. To that end, the task force is committed to the Zero Suicide Model – where we envision a world without suicide. We believe that is possible when people understand that they are not alone and that there are people available to offer resources and programming designed to offer the greatest likelihood of preventing suicide.

While mental health conditions are not the only reason to cause someone to contemplate suicide, we believe that any person who sees this as their only option should have an opportunity to talk through their challenges.  If you or someone you know needs help please call DBHIDS’ Suicide & Crisis Prevention Hotline – 215-686-4420, a resource that is available 24/7.  Our highly-trained staff will be ready to provide access to resources and immediate assistance that is designed to save the life of someone experiencing a mental health crisis. Other options for support include the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, which can be accessed by calling 800-273-TALK.

Additionally, our Mental Health First Aid Training offers people information on how to identify when someone they know or love may be experiencing a mental health crisis. Those who are trained learn what they can do to ensure that the individual in crisis receives the support they need to get and stay well. This training, which we have provided to more than 25,000 people throughout Philadelphia, goes a long way in supporting people at risk of suicide and offering coping and problem-solving skills to help people manage mental health challenges.

Together, we can ensure that our friends and family know there is help available. A few easy steps we can take include:

  • Promote safe and supportive environments, including safely storing medications and firearms to reduce access among people at risk.
  • Offer activities that bring people together so they feel connected and not alone.
  • Connect people at risk to effective and coordinated mental and physical healthcare.
  • Expand options for temporary help for those struggling to make ends meet.

While extremely sad, the deaths of Spade and Bourdain  allow us to have what is an uncomfortable, but necessary conversation. Far too many people suffer in silence and consider a permanent act as the best way to address what may often be a temporary situation. May we all be willing to speak out when we find ourselves in need and may we all be willing to take the time to listen when someone cries out for help.