Suicide Prevention Awareness Month centers breaking mental health stigma

The Stigma of Suicide

(WFFF) — September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and the Department of Mental Health and Vermont’s advocacy groups want you to know how to make a difference. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among Vermonters ages 15 to 34.

Even so, Laurie Emerson, executive director of NAMI Vermont, says conversations about mental health have grown more open and accessible. “We’ve been more open about it, and we’ve realized we all have mental health, and we all need support,” she says.

Emerson says those discussions can take many forms, whether it’s a conversation with a friend, visiting a community mental health center, or calling the Suicide Prevention Hotline during a crisis. Emerson added that next year, there will be a new lifeline, which can be reached by dialing 988.

NAMI Vermont is also pushing for mobile crisis teams in Vermont. “Let’s be able to meet people where they’re at to give them the support that they need,” Emerson said. “What we really want to do is keep people out of the emergency room to ensure they’re getting the help that they need when they need it.”

Alex Raeburn, the Vermont Department of Mental Health’s data and outreach coordinator, says there’s been a particular focus on helping employees create work environments free of mental health stigma. “There’s a lot of opportunities to just really check in, be mindful of where everyone is, and how their mental health is being affected,” Raeburn said. “Not just by these extreme circumstances we’ve all been dealing with for the last year and a half, but also just to make this a norm.”

Emerson also highlighted the importance of support groups. She first got involved with NAMI Vermont by going to meetings with a family member. Although it might not be a preferred method for some, there can be strength in numbers.

“I was able to connect with other families who were going through the same experiences I was going through, and we were able to talk to each other very openly and honestly,” Emerson said. “Sometimes talking with people other than family is really helpful, because they understand what you’re going through.”

On October 9, NAMI Vermont will host its annual NAMIWalks event. The fundraiser will be an in-person event and a virtual experience. Participants will meet on the lawn of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington for a walk and a BBQ.

If you or someone you know is thinking about or planning to take their own life, there is help available:

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