One conversation can save a life

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Mental illness doesn’t target a specific gender, race or nationality. It doesn’t discriminate on the basis of age, financial status or personality type. According to www.save.org, one in every five Americans are affected by some type of mental illness each year, with depression being the most common. A CEO of a major corporation is just as much at risk as a fast food employee, both hiding their conditions and dealing with it in silence. Sadly, we too often hear of someone who seemingly had a wonderful life decide that they couldn’t suffer anymore and take their own life. Suicide doesn’t differentiate between a well-known celebrity or an athletic high school student; everyone with depression and mental illness are at risk. Currently, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for ages 15-24 according to www.Communityofhope.org.

I commend our County Superintendent of Schools, Ted Alejandre, for his efforts to apply suicide prevention tactics in our schools. Having skilled teachers who can employ intervention techniques for depression and anti-bullying provide the emotional and physical support students need is key to reducing the number of teen deaths by suicide. The County of San Bernardino also offers many programs through the Department of Behavioral Health with services for mental health, drug and alcohol, crisis intervention, and crisis walk in clinics that are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Recently, two Crisis Stabilization Units were opened for those suffering from a mental health crisis.

We all know of someone who at some point took their life when the suffering was too much. What could we have done to help? Did we know they suffered and didn’t know how to help? Or were we simply not aware of the signs? Everyone plays a role in suicide prevention, and many organizations are helping by giving us the tools we need so we can see the warning signs. SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education) https://save.org/ and YellowRibbon https://yellowribbon.org/ have online tools we can use to help those who show signs of suicidal thoughts. The San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health http://wp.sbcounty.gov/dbh has a crisis hotline available 24/7 at 1-888-743-1478.

We all owe it to each other to become engaged in the conversation and do our part to help. Using social media is one way to stay alert and engaged. Instagram accounts like Help Prevent Suicide, Living for Yourself and Stop Suicide 503 are just some of the accounts that bring awareness and give inspirational messages and hope to those who suffer. Hashtags have become popular with #LetsTalk and #YoureNotAlone which seek to bring awareness and a community of support to everyone who suffers. Recognize the signs and help save a life.

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By James Ramos, 3rd District County Supervisor

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