Highlighting suicide prevention, advocates share their stories to ‘end the silence’

September is National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month.
Published: Sep. 6, 2023 at 11:26 AM HST|Updated: Sep. 6, 2023 at 1:30 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - September is National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month.

While mental health advocates work year-round to ensure people are not alone, the month is an opportunity for organizations to highlight suicide prevention.

Studies show that in the United States, one in five young people experience a mental disorder and at least 20% of adults live with a mental illness.

In Hawaii, suicide continues to be one of the leading causes of preventable death for Hawaii residents.

According to the state Department of Health, on average, almost four people die from suicide every week.

A total of 1,003 residents died from suicide from 2018 to 2022.

And despite the prevalence of mental health issues, only very few seek treatment or care.

Instead, many opt to handle it on their own.

There are multiple reasons why people don’t seek help, but experts say stigma is the biggest factor.

Advocates are on a mission to end the silence — and break stigmas — by sharing their stories.

In this HNN documentary, we explore what stigma looks like through the lens of nine different people, including a psychiatrist with Hawaii’s youth suicide prevention task force, and see what they’re doing to reduce it.

In Hawaii, suicide continues to be one of the leading causes of preventable death for Hawaii residents.

While stigma against mental health has reduced in recent years, advocates hope that by normalizing honest conversations about mental health conditions, more people will be encourage to seek help and take steps to reduce stigma in their community.

Here are some ways you can start:

  • Don’t isolate yourself: If you have a mental illness, you may be reluctant to tell anyone about it. Your family, friends, or members of your community can offer you support if they know about your mental illness. Reach out to people you trust for the compassion, support and understanding you need.
  • Join a support group: Rely on your community resources. Some local and national groups, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), offer local programs and internet resources that help reduce stigma by educating people who have mental illness, their families and the general public.
  • Educate yourself and others: Respond to misperceptions or negative comments by sharing facts and experiences
  • Get treatment: Normalize mental health treatment, just like other health care treatment. Treatment can provide relief by identifying what’s wrong and reducing symptoms that interfere with your work and personal life.
  • Don’t equate yourself with your illness: You are not an illness. So instead of saying “I’m bipolar,” say “I have bipolar disorder.” Instead of calling yourself “a schizophrenic,” say “I have schizophrenia.”
  • Speak out against stigma: It can help instill courage in others facing similar challenges and educate the public about mental illness.
  • Choose empowerment over shame: Seeking counseling, educating yourself about your condition and connecting with others who have mental illness can help you gain self-esteem and overcome destructive self-judgment.

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We can all prevent suicide

To mark National Suicide Prevention Month, the state’s Department of Health and its partners are holding a multitude of events to call attention to the public health issue and promote mental health resources.

For a list of those events, click here.

In wake of the Maui wildfire disaster, the state is also offering crisis mental health services for those who are experiencing emotional distress.

For a list of mental health resources, click here.

If you or a loved one is experiencing emotion distress, call or text 988.