In 2015, I received a wake-up call from the governor of Arkansas. I learned that suicide was the 11th leading cause of death in our state — over twice as many people died by suicide annually than from homicide. Today, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death. As a native Arkansan, it was disheartening to hear these facts. For me, this was a paradigm shift: I knew I had to do more. I took the opportunity to serve on the Arkansas Suicide Prevention Council.
What places Arkansans at such risk?
We are known as the Natural State, but in reality, Arkansas is a rural state. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the suicide rates are higher in rural America than in urban America. The gap in suicide rates between rural and urban areas has increased steadily since 1999.
A combination of factors place those in rural areas at risk:
- Feelings of isolation and loneliness
- Substance use and abuse
- Limited access to mental health services
- Presence of and access to guns
- Cultural differences in mental health
- Stigma surrounding the need to ask for help
According to Mental Health America, one in five adults has a mental health condition. The mental health of our youth is worsening and 76% of youth do not have adequate treatment. In fact, most people still lack access to care, and 56% of adults with a mental illness do not receive treatment. Taking the subject of suicide out of the shadows feels more urgent than ever.
Things we can do to end suicide include:
- Removing the stigma: The first thing we can all do to help prevent suicide is to talk about it.
- Knowing the warning signs: Be more aware, ask more questions and intervene quickly.
- Learning how to get help: It is crucial when a person's life is at stake.
- Accessing resources: Everyone should know of available resources:
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
- Crisis Text Line: There is a 24/7 Crisis Text Line available to text trained crisis counselors. Text "GO" TO 741741.
- Apps: There are many smartphone apps to help people access the resources and tools they need.
We can all do our part to help people get the help they need when they need it.