May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It’s time to talk seriously about an issue that impacts so many people.
Did you know that according to the most current CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) data, in Oklahoma a person dies by suicide every 12 hours? Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death overall in Oklahoma, and over twice as many people die by suicide in Oklahoma than by homicides. It’s very alarming that in Oklahoma suicide is the second leading cause of death for those ages 10-34. It’s even more alarming that in 2015 Oklahoma ranked 12 among states in suicides and is now currently ranked 9. What does all of this mean? It means that we are going in the wrong direction, and we need to take mental health more seriously in our state.
I am a suicide attempt survivor and native Oklahoman. I am also the Co-Chair for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Oklahoma Chapter and newly self-published author of my first book entitled “And Then I Woke Up From Suicide To Success,” which was released in January 2016. Since my suicide attempt I’ve dedicated my life to raising awareness about mental health and depression and have worked diligently to support those who have been impacted by suicide.
90 percent of all people who die from suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death. Just as people can die of heart disease or cancer, people can die as a consequence of mental illness. That’s why it’s so unfortunate that, in Oklahoma, budget cuts have been made in the area of mental health. Because of these budget cuts, a number of treatment programs will be impacted, including programs that provide front-end help to those suffering with mental health and substance abuse. Fewer low-income children and adults will get the help they need, and this could cause spike in suicides and/or incarceration rates.
With data so bleak, it’s easy to feel discouraged; however, you can help make a change. What can you do to help? Here are three different ways you can honor this month’s focus and, in doing so, help those who need help the most.
1.) Get involved and help raise awareness! As mentioned, May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. It is the perfect time for you to begin the discussion of mental health in your community. Talk Saves Lives is the new slogan for The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). Once you begin a conversation, others become comfortable with opening up, and before you know it, you’ve fostered a culture of acceptance and awareness.
2.) Join AFSP, September 10 at Lake Hefner for the Out of the Darkness Walk for Suicide Prevention. You can register for free at www.outofthedarkness.org. By walking, you join in the effort with hundreds of thousands of people to raise awareness and funds that allow AFSP to invest in new research, create educational programs, advocate for public policy and support survivors of suicide loss.
3.) Learn more about The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at www.afsp.org. This website has many great resources and outlets for those struggling with suicidal thoughts or mental illness. Reaching out and talking to someone who is willing to listen is crucial. Let’s work together to save more lives.
David Ahmad Threatt is a mental health activist and author of the book, “And Then I Woke Up From Suicide To Success,” available for purchase as a Kindle Ebook and paperback at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter at @Suicide2Success and like him on Facebook at Andtheniwokeupinfo.