TAMPA, Fla. — September is Suicide Prevention Awareness month and mental health experts say starting conversations with one another is more important this year than ever before.
From a global pandemic claiming 4.5 million lives, 18 months in and hospitals are still bearing the weight, to social unrest and a tragic end to America’s longest war, it’s been a very difficult year and a half.
“I think now more so than ever, more and more of our family members, our neighbors, our friends are recognizing that this is tough... and it's not going away,” said Crisis Center of Tampa Bay CEO Clara Reynolds.
On August 12, 2021, the Crisis Center received the most suicide calls they’ve ever had, 31 people in Hillsborough County called wanting to end their lives. That’s double their busiest days and triple their slowest days.
“That is the most we have ever had. So we recognize that there is just a lot of concern, a lot of anxiety. A lot of anger,” Reynolds explained, “It's not just COVID, it is hurricane season, it is what's happening politically, it is what's happening economically.”
In Pinellas County, suicide hotline calls are routed to 2-1-1 Tampa Bay Cares.
“This year, we've answered 1595 lifeline calls from people who are either suicidal and thinking about it or maybe who already in progress of trying to take their own lives or those family members and their survivors who now need counseling or some resources to try to get through the loss of a loved one,” said Kimberly Curnan with 2-1-1 Tampa Bay Cares.
Curnan adds that their calls are slightly up, but their community partners are seeing more clients experiencing suicidal thoughts than ever before, which means the majority of people aren’t calling.
According to Hillsborough’s National Alliance On Mental Illness (NAMI), it's the younger generations that are actually following through on those thoughts.
“Right now, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 34. That means our middle school, high school, college students, young adults, the second leading cause of death is suicide and that's second only to accidental deaths,” explained Natasha A. Pierre, Executive Director for Hillsborough NAMI.
Pierre said as a society, we’re not addressing the grief so many are feeling.
“People who've lost one person, more than one person. What about our first responders? How many, how many nurses and doctors have held up iPads and held hands while family members said goodbye through a screen?”
She adds that the end of the war in Afghanistan has triggered a lot of emotions for veterans.
“There are people dealing with post-traumatic stress, people who are amputees people who lost their marriages, their families because of that war,” Pierre said, “And to see it come to the end that it did, like, what did I go through all of that for?”
NAMI has started hosting support groups online every day due to the growing need due to the pandemic. Pierre encourages everyone to start talking with one another, and they’ll realize they are not alone.
“Mental health is health,” she said, “Unfortunately, I would dare to say that the next pandemic to hit American shores will be mental health in nature.”
“It is okay to not be okay. What is not okay is not reaching out for help when you need it,” Reynolds concluded.
The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay hotline is for Hillsborough residents 24/7. They also help people who may know someone they think is struggling. Their staff will coach you through how to speak to them about getting help. Click here to visit their website.
The phone number to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-TALK (8255). That will route you to your county's closest resource center. You can also chat with someone on online by clicking here.
You can also call 2-1-1 from anywhere you are and it will route you to your nearest support organization.