We are not post pandemic. We are not post pandemic-related stress and anxiety either. And if our current state is the “new normal,” then my job
and those of my colleagues and peers will continue to grow. As the head of a local behavioral health nonprofit, that is not our goal.
COVID-related anxiety, depression, loneliness and decreased stress tolerance has made suicide prevention efforts more important than ever. In fact, 36% of callers to PRS’ CrisisLink Program—Virginia’s crisis intervention and suicide prevention hotline, text and chat service—identified COVID-19 as the primary stressor in their lives with a third of those experiencing acute suicide thoughts.
Our PRS staff report seeing younger children with increasingly aggressive behaviors and teens with increased hospitalizations, suicide ideation, risky behaviors and drug use.
We all have a role to play. September is suicide prevention month, and throughout the month, we have activities as part of our annual #CallTextLive Campaign to help everyone be part of the solution. The campaign works to create awareness about preventing suicide and calling or texting a hotline to receive help and support. On our website, we have information designed to support populations at a higher risk for suicide behaviors; facts and data about understanding the problem of suicide; resources about identifying when someone is in crisis; and invitations to PRS supported events including NAMI NoVa Walk and AFSP Fairfax Walk. Social media is an important part of the campaign, used to engage people in sharing stories and photos on PRS Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Suicide, a serious issue locally and nationally and exacerbated by the pandemic, claims the lives of more than 47,000 people annually and is the second leading cause of death for people aged 10-34. A simple call or text to a crisis hotline—(800) 273-TALK —and the textline—"CONNECT" to 85511—provides the empathetic, trained voice that someone in crisis often needs to reduce their pain and provide alternatives and connections to care.
We know that prevention works. For every death, 278 people manage to move past thoughts of suicide and survive. That’s why we need to continue reducing the stigma around discussing issues that contribute to suicide and encourage people to seek help. By participating in #CallTextLive, our community can find simple ways to effect change. Visit our campaign site at www.prsinc.org/calltextlive to discover how to get and give help so that more people can adapt and live in our new and changing normal.