Suicide Prevention Awareness Month highlights importance of breaking mental health stigma

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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, but NAMI Vermont Executive Director Laurie Emerson said 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,” Emerson said.

She said those discussions can take many forms, whether it’s a conversation with a friend, visiting a community mental health center, or in a time of crisis, calling the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Emerson added that next year, there will be a new lifeline, which can be reached by dialing 9-8-8.

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, Data and Outreach Coordinator for the Vermont Department of Mental Health, said 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, and even though it might not be a preferred method for some, there can be strength in numbers.

“I felt like 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, and sometimes talking with people other than family is really helpful because they understand what you’re going through,” Emerson said.

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

  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255. Counselors are available 24/7 to provide free and confidential support. In an emergency, you can also call 9-1-1 or go to your nearest emergency department. Visit vtspc.org/suicide-resources/get-help/ for additional resources.
  • Text the Crisis Text Line – text “VT” to 741741 anywhere in the U.S. about any type of crisis. Get immediate counseling and support through text messaging.
  • Trevor Project: LGBTQ+ Crisis Lifeline: 1-866-488-7368
  • Veteran’s Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 Press 1
  • 10 community mental health centers located around the state offer crisis services and ongoing supports. Go to mentalhealth.vermont.gov/individuals-and-families.
  • Talk to a family member, friend, health care provider, a faith leader, teacher or coach

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.

More details on in-person events, virtual events and donations can be found here.

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