Mental Health and Suicide
Mental health is just as important as the health of the rest of our bodies. Just like our lungs, heart, bones, and skin, our brain can be affected by a multitude of illnesses or injuries. Despite this, we tend to forget to take care of our brains.
Did you know that one out six adults in the United States lives with some form of mental illness (National Institute of Mental Health)? These illnesses can be behavioral, emotional, or mental disorders. People with mental illnesses are more likely to attempt or die by suicide than individuals without mental illnesses. In fact, 90% of individuals that die by suicide have some form of a diagnosable mental disorder and worldwide the leading cause of death for individuals ages 15 to 44 is suicide (University of Washington).
Suicide is preventable and it would be amazing if we could reduce suicide rates. To do so, we must reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and its treatment. When I was in high school, I once had someone tell me that everyone who takes anti-depressants becomes violent. I was flabbergasted that someone could think that, but apparently, it's not too uncommon of a thought. Antidepressants and other medications to aid with mental illnesses don't make people violent. They help make people better. Of course, medication doesn't always work for each person. Some individuals need to try multiple medications before they find the right one. Others may find other treatment options, such as therapy, therapy animals/emotional support animals, or other lifestyle changes may work better for them. It can be an extremely long process, but things can get better if we better provide the tools needed for individuals suffering from mental illnesses.
So how do we help prevent suicide in the coroner's office?
1. Follow Jefferson County's example by posting suicide hotlines on the coroner's website. In addition, we need to make sure other resources (mental health professionals, support groups, etc) are available on our website and are available at public places.
2. Spread awareness on mental illnesses and suicide to help destigmatize receiving help.
3. Promote training first responders and other public servants in psychological first-aid.
4. Educate our youth, starting in kindergarten, the importance of mental health and well-being.
The coroner's office has funds left over every year, meaning that this would not cost tax-payers. In fact, preventative measures would be more cost-effective than the cost of individuals dying by suicide, that costs our nation $69 billion annually.
“Mental Illness.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Nov. 2017, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness.shtml.
University of Washington School of Social Work. “Fact Sheets.” Facts About Mental Illness and Suicide - Mental Health Reporting, UW School of Social Work, depts.washington.edu/mhreport/facts_suicide.php.
Please note that I have not been endorsed by the following, but I believe as a candidate for coroner the public should have easy access to life saving services to prevent premature deaths.
24 Hour National Suicide Prevention/Mental Health Crisis Lifeline
24 Hour National Domestic Violence Hotline
Gay and Lesbian National Hotline
Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network
American Association of Poison Control Centers
National Child Abuse Hotline
The Trevor Project: Crisis Intervention 24/7 for LGBTQ Youth