Every Sunday morning I have a small ritual. I get up before everyone else, grab a cup of coffee and take a look at the weekly “Sunday Secrets” at Postsecrets.com.
The world’s largest, advertising-free blog, Post Secrets began as a community art project in which people from across the country and around the world mail in anonymous secrets. While some of the art and language may be graphic, (be forewarned if you haven’t visited before), the messages are alternately funny, inspiring, heartbreaking, and always brutally honest.
Whether discussing addiction and recovery, lamenting unrequited love, or celebrating their own particular quirks, Post Secret contributors have created an online community that supports and reaches out to people in crisis.
When I logged on this weekend, I learned that Sept. 8-13 is Suicide Awareness and Prevention Week. As it has done for the past 15 years, Post Secret is sponsoring a fundraiser to continue their efforts of training and staffing the suicide prevention and crisis counselors for their IMALIVE Hopeline.
Across the country, communities will be reaching out to raise awareness about what public health officials call a “preventable “ crisis and disseminate their message that there is help available if and when you need it. According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death of Americans in 2010 and the third leading cause of death in young adults between the ages of 15-24. Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered (GLBT) youth and young adults are almost 3.5 times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers, and in 2012, suicide among active duty military was more than double the rate that it was ten years ago.
While the conversation about suicide risk remains the same, the tools for prevention and intervention have become increasing high tech. Now, online resource sites like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, offers advice on how to recognize warning signs via social media sites. Educators are urging teens and young adults to keep an eye on posts that reference a willingness to “end it all,” extreme hopelessness or unbearable pain and take action — either in real life or via the social media networks “safety teams.” Other warning signs include:
Appearing depressed or sad most of the time, as untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide.
Talking or writing about death or suicide
Withdrawing from family and friends or acting recklessly.
Feeling hopeless or helpless; exhibiting strong anger or rage
Experiencing dramatic mood changes
Abusing drugs or alcohol
Exhibiting a change in personality and acting impulsively
Losing interest in most activities
Experiencing a change in sleeping and eating habits
Performing poorly at work or in school
Giving away prized possessions
Writing a will
Feeling excessive guilt or shame
Recognizing the signs and encouraging our friends, families and colleagues to get the help they need is the most important thing we can do. If you are struggling and need help, it’s available 24-7 via hotlines like 1-800-SUICIDE. Long-term, sustainable solutions and awareness include advocating for better access for mental health treatment, working to erase the stigma of depression and mental illness and building strong and encouraging, supportive communities. For those urgently in crisis, you can find immediate help at 1-800-273-TALK, and locally at the Bridgeway Center in Fort Walton Beach 850-244-9191 or Crestview at 850-682-0101.
Follow Susan Moody on Twitter @susanjmoody and visit her blog, The Emerald Coast Insider, at www.emeraldcoasttreasurebox.com.