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Suicide rates rising; mental health experts encourage open discussion on mental health

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week, people in Michiana say there needs to be more discussion about mental health and mental health issues.

Mental Health Awareness Week is a nation-wide event happening Oct. 7 to Oct. 13. It’s meant to raise awareness and comfort levels around mental health.

Michiana health experts say statistics show just how much more work needs to be done when it comes to suicide prevention and mental health.

Suicide rates rose in every state except Nevada from 1999 to 2016 according to CDC data from June 2018. Indiana’s rate increased 31.9 percent. Michigan’s rate increased 32.9 percent.

Based on CDC data, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention said suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in Indiana and Michigan. Indiana lost 1,034 people died by suicide in 2016. In the same year, 1,364 people in Michigan died by suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15-34 year olds in both states.

There is an economic impact as well. Suicide cost Michigan $1,501,780,000 of combined lifetime medical and work loss cost in 2010. That’s an average of $1,189,058 per suicide death. There is a similar impact in Indiana. Combined lifetime medical and work loss cost in 2010 cost the state $1,023,791,000. That’s an average of $1,184,944 per suicide death.

Local professionals said many people are uncomfortable discussing mental health issues. That’s one of the reasons the statistics may be so high. Mental health is also largely underfunded.

Since mental health and mental health issues are under-discussed and under-funded, those suffering from these diseases think they’re alone according to experts.

“What we really encourage people to do is to not be afraid to open up that discussion and have that conversation,” said Vice President of Medical Services and Access at Oaklawn Amy Rosen. “A lot of individuals who are dealing with mental health issues, they need the questions to be asked more than once. They need to feel safe and supported before they start to, feel comfortable enough to share, and they need to know that you truly do care, that you really are there for them.”

Rosen said some warning signs that someone may be suicidal or suffering from a mental health issue, are changes in behavior, talks about being a burden, and gives away possessions.

Rosen also says asking someone if they are thinking about committing suicide, will not encourage them to committ suicide. She says that is a myth. She adds most people who were suicidal say a family member or friend reaching out to them prevented them from going through. 

Wednesday, a powerful display on Notre Dame’s campus is raising awareness about suicide and mental health among young adults.

More than 1,000 backpacks, representing the number of college students who die by suicide each year, will fill the university’s South Quad.

D.C. native Alison Malmon launched “Send Silence Packing” and Active Minds after losing her older brother, Brian, to suicide in 2000. Alison says Brian developed psychosis and depression during his freshman year of college. However, he didn’t reach out for help until his senior year of college.

Alison said the display and the goal of active minds, is to change the conversation around suicide and mental health. She wants young adults to understand it’s ok to experience depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts, but she wants them to realize there are resources and help.

“Our goal is just to get people talking, and to do it in a way that is accessible emotionally as well as physically, and encourage this long term conversation,” said Malmon.  “So that nobody thinks that they’re alone, and everybody knows that they have support around them, peple care about them, people love them, and that seeking help is a sign of strength.”

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students.

Many of the backpacks at Wednesday’s event once belong to someone who committee suicide. The backpacks include pictures of the person and share his or her story.

“Every family is touched by mental health and mental illness, and yet we don’t talk about it as a society,” said Malmon. “It’s critical we have these discussions, because you’re not going to get well unless  you get the support and the treatment that you need. Especially for young adults, age of onset on almost every mental health issue is the high school and college age.”

If you or someone you know may be thinking about suicide, you’re encourage to call or text the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1(800)-273-8555. The hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  

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