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Saturday, September 23, 2023

Activities & Organizations

Panel seeks to stop suicide stigma

A group of three panelists, all with different personal experiences with suicide, gave advice on how to help a friend or loved one who is thinking of committing suicide. | Fernando Castaldi/The Daily Cougar

While suicide remains the third leading cause of death for young adults aged 15 to 24, more than half of the 30,000 Americans who commit suicide every year are men aged 25 to 65, according to the Suicide Awareness Voices of Education.

World Suicide Prevention Day, held on Tuesday by the International Association for Suicide Prevention, seeks to change these numbers.

UH held several events this year for World Suicide Prevention Day, including a panel of three members from Crisis Intervention of Houston, an organization that provides a free, confidential hotline for those who are considering suicide.

The panel sought to break down the stigma on discussing suicide as it briefly covered how to help a loved one who is having suicidal thoughts and, perhaps most importantly, how to recognize when to bring the person to a professional. The panel stressed the importance of getting past the fear of talking about suicide.

An individual wouldn’t wait for a professional before attempting to assist a person bleeding or choking, said panelist Troy Bush, co-founder of the Houston-Area Suicide Prevention Coalition, so they shouldn’t wait for a person with a mental illness.

“Get involved, and make sure that if you know someone (who is thinking of committing suicide) that you can help them get help. Know those resources. We all know how to do CPR, we all know how to do the Heimlich maneuver, but when it comes to mental health, we kind of shy away from it,” he said. “We’ve got to break down that stigma and get to a place where our community is accepting of someone who has depression, (like you would be) accepting of someone with cancer.”

Crisis prevention is keeping up with modern technology by providing assistance through texting, web chat and social media.

“We have much more ways of communicating with each other, and with that, we have the responsibility of knowing how and where to refer somebody,” Bush said. “We are finding on Facebook, there are ways that you can go on and flag someone and say, ‘This person needs to talk to someone.”

Despite the emphasis that was placed on the importance of the meeting, attendance was low, and another World Suicide Prevention Day event on campus was outright cancelled because of low attendance. This is not a new problem.

“But my hope is that …  we can get enough to have a (Question, Persuade and Refer — the steps to help someone with suicidal thoughts) training, and my hope is that the next time, we can get an outreach program to come and address some of these concerns,” said panelist Suzette Sova Shaikh, mental health first aid coordinator.

There are numerous hotlines, both locally and nationally, that provide instantaneous support for those who are depressed or who are thinking of suicide. Texas Crisis Intervention reaches 38 southwest Texas counties 24/7 and be reached at (713) 970-7000. The National Suicide Hotline reaches the entire U.S. and can be reached at (800) 273-8255.

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