May marks Mental Health Awareness Month, and all month long, prevention strategies, lifelines, survivor stories and pleas to ask for help were being retweeted, reported on and posted on Instagram Stories. It’s important to remember that mental health awareness is an ongoing conversation. Here are seven ways to continue the conversation now that May is over:
Have a #RealConvo
According to a 2018 report from the American College Health Association, more than 60 percent of college students said they had experienced “overwhelming anxiety” in the past year, and 12 percent of students said they “seriously considered suicide.”
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention released its #RealConvo campaign about mental health. A #RealConvo can be you reaching out on behalf of yourself or checking in with someone who might be struggling. The text can be as simple as “Hey, i haven’t heard from you this week. Are you OK?”
Although it’s trendy, self-care is vital to recharging the body not only on a physical level, but on a mental level. It can be as simple as taking medication on a daily basis, going to the gym regularly or meditating, and if you’re a student, you know you need some extra self-care every once in a while.
See something, say something
If someone you know is exhibiting signs of suicidal behavior, the worst thing you can do is look the other way. Verbal clues include conversation about the person killing themselves, feeling hopeless, being a burden and feeling numb, among others. Behavior can look like an increased use of alcohol and/or drugs, being disinterested from their normal hobbies and interests, sleeping and eating too much or too little and trying to say goodbye or make amends.
If you think a person might be a risk to themselves, tell a trusted adult to get them support and help. You may save their life.
Recognize unhealthy media
The most popular Netflix series about mental health and suicide, 13 Reasons Why, raised red flags with the way the show navigated triggers. Hollywood and widespread media is known for ending mental health stigma but also sometimes sensationalizing it, which, either way, can lead to important discussions.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, said that show was associated with a 28.9 percent increase in suicide rates among U.S. youth ages 10-17 in the month, following the show's release, which was April 2017, after accounting for ongoing trends in suicide rates.
“The number of deaths by suicide recorded in April 2017 was greater than the number seen in any single month during the five-year period examined by the researchers,” said NIMH. “When researchers analyzed the data by sex, they found the increase in the suicide rate was primarily driven by significant increases in suicide in young males. While suicide rates for females increased after the show’s release, the increase was not statistically significant.”
If you’re watching a controversial show that triggers you, walk away. If you see someone you know that’s watching a show or movie they may not like, warn them. Surround yourself with positive media that encourages self-growth and progress in your mental health journey.
Use your voice, especially your social media platforms, to talk about suicide prevention strategies. If you see something popular in the media that you think is toxic, use your resources and privileges to do something about it. Blog about it, share it, retweet it, pin it to your feed.
Ask for help
Asking for help shouldn’t be embarrassing or belittling; it should be about wanting to get better. On campus, Counseling and Psychological Services is available to students all year. Anyone can stop in on the third floor of Hudson Health Center for drop-in hours from 9:45 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. At drop-ins, students can see a counselor or get set-up with regular appointments.
If you are uncomfortable with talking to a doctor, talk to a friend first who would support you.
Having numbers preprogrammed into your phone is not only convenient but necessary for late-night intrusive thoughts. You can call CPS 24/7 at 740-593-1616. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s number is 1-800-273-8255, and the Crisis Text Line is 741-741. Also, having a pre-typed mass-text to family and close friends to let them know what’s going on is helpful.