September is Suicide Prevention Month. During September, many people and organizations share resources and stories in an effort to shed light on suicide, a topic that carries a lot of stigma. Suicidal thoughts can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender or background. Although thoughts of suicide are common, they should not be considered normal – indeed, suicidal thoughts can indicate the presence of an untreated mental health condition.
Every year, more than 41,000 individuals die by suicide in the United States alone, leaving behind their friends, family members, and community to navigate the tragedy. Feelings of shame and stigma prevent these people, often known as “suicide loss survivors,” from talking openly about their grief, and that same stigma can also result in underreporting of suicides. The most recent statistics that ARE reported indicate that suicide is the 9th leading cause of death in Wisconsin – and it comes in 2nd for those between the ages of 15 and 34.
The West Bend Community Memorial Library and the National Alliance on Mental Illness Washington County chapter are working together to bring free mental health awareness and suicide prevention programs to the West Bend Library. On Monday, September 16 at 4:30 p.m., teens and preteens are invited to join us for “Ending the Silence.” This 50-minute presentation is designed for middle and high school-aged students and includes warning signs, facts and statistics, and how to get help for themselves or a friend. Research shows Ending the Silence for Students is effective in changing middle and high school students’ knowledge and attitudes toward mental health conditions and toward seeking help. This program is presented in many Washington County public high schools, and is coming to the library to reach folks who don’t attend public school.
On Monday, September 30 at 6:30 p.m., we will have another Ending the Silence presentation, this one designed for families. This event is a 1-hour presentation for adults with middle or high school aged children, or grownups who work with teens and preteens, which includes warning signs, facts and statistics, how to talk with your child, and how to work with school staff.
Looking ahead a little bit, the library will host a presentation called “In Our Own Voice” on Tuesday, October 22 at 6:30 p.m. This presentation is designed to change attitudes, assumptions, and ideas about people with mental health conditions by providing a personal perspective of mental health conditions, as leaders with lived experience talk openly about what it's like to have a mental health condition. You will have the opportunity to hear open and honest perspectives, ask questions, gain a deeper understanding of mental health conditions, and dispel stereotypes and misconceptions. We will also have information on how to learn more about mental health and get involved with the mental health community locally and beyond.
Though suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for Wisconsin teens, who are also the most likely to be hospitalized for self-injury, suicide rates are actually higher among middle-aged adults. These tips, resources, and strategies are applicable across age groups. If you see any of the warning signs in someone of any age, please don’t hesitate to intervene, or to share anything you’ve learned. Together, we can stop the stigma and end suicide.
In an emergency, don’t hesitate to dial 9-1-1
Acute Care Services: 262-365-6565
COPE Hotline: 262-377-2673
Life of Hope: 262-429-1556
NAMI Teen Support Groups: 262-339-1235
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Hopeline (text): 471471
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): 800-950-6264
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: 800-799-7233
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence: 800-622-2255
National Eating Disorders Association: 800-931-2237
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
TREVOR Project (LGBTQIA+): 866-488-7386