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There is hope

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

If you have never experienced the loss of a loved one from suicide, you’re blessed.

If you have never had to talk with someone who wanted to end their life, you’re blessed, and if you have never had the experience of social thoughts, you’re blessed.

But if you have been in any of these situations, know that there is hope and help.

According to the CDC, suicide rates have increased by 30 percent since 1999. Each year, more than 41,000 individuals die by suicide, leaving behind their friends and family members to navigate the tragedy of loss. In many cases, friends and families affected by a suicide loss (often called “suicide loss survivors”) are left in the dark. Too often, the feelings of shame and stigma prevent them from talking openly.

Suicide hit close to home for me 10 years ago when a family member took his life. It hit again when a very close friend battled suicidal thoughts, and I found myself dropping them off at a mental health facility in hopes they would be OK.

I am happy to say they are alive and functioning well today, but it was a long battle.

Suicidal thoughts, much like mental health conditions, can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background. In fact, suicide is often the result of an untreated mental health condition.

Over the years, I have learned a lot about mental health issues, suicide prevention, and the stigma that surrounds both.

Often, people with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression suffer in silence for fear that they will be judged or looked at as being weak. You’re the strongest when you speak up and ask for help!

Know the warning signs:

Threats or comments about killing themselves, also known as suicidal ideation, can begin with seemingly harmless thoughts like “I wish I wasn’t here” but can become more overt and dangerous, increased alcohol and drug use, aggressive behavior, social withdrawal from friends, family and the community; dramatic mood swings, talking, writing or thinking about death; impulsive or reckless behavior.

If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call 911 immediately.

If you are in crisis or are experiencing difficult or suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Hotline at (800) 273-8255 (TALK).

If you’re uncomfortable talking on the phone, you can also text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line.

Crystal Vandegrift is a staff reporter for The Kenbridge-Victoria Dispatch and Farmville Newsmedia LLC. Her email address is Crystal. Vandegrift@KVDispatch.com.