September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. In support of SPA, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a new website, preventingsuicide.lds.org, Sept. 8.
The Church went public with the website two days before World Suicide Prevention Awareness Day. The website lists signs to look for and ways to support those who are suffering from depression and struggling with thoughts of suicide.
Along with the Church, the state of Idaho has also recognized this month for Suicide Prevention Awareness. After receiving state funding, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare will now include suicide prevention services. The Office of Suicide Prevention and the Suicide Prevention Action Network work together to help victims of depression and suicide attempts. The Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline offers a 24/7 hotline where anyone can call in. The line provides emotional support and offers crisis intervention.
Jessica Foster, a freshman majoring in general studies, said it has been a struggle dealing with a mental illness. Foster said she has suffered from depression since she was in middle school.
“To me, depression is feeling like you are alone, even when you have people around you that care,” Foster said. “When I was in the worst of my depression, I would constantly have negative thoughts and feelings towards myself. I felt that there was no way I could be successful in life. Expectations were built too high around me, so when I could not meet them, my thoughts on myself got worse.”
Margie Harris, the executive director of the Idaho Family Crisis Center, said the center is not yet prepared or equipped to deal with suicide situations. Such situations are more of a SPAN issue.
Harris said they will attempt to work together with SPAN by either transferring the call to someone who can handle a suicide situation or by creating a three-way call with SPAN and the caller.
Some of the common things to look for when someone has become suicidal are agitation, sleeplessness, withdrawing from friends and family, changes in eating behaviors and dramatic mood changes, according to SPAN Idaho.
In a 2014 survey done by the World Health Organization, one person dies of suicide about every 40 seconds. Idaho’s suicide rate was the ninth highest in the nation, according to SPAN’s January 2016 Suicide Fact List.
For students, there is help on campus. In the BYU-Idaho Counseling Center, students can receive treatment or counseling for mental illnesses.
“Students don’t have to start treatment here if they catch it early enough,” said Reed Stoddard, head counselor at the BYU-I Counseling Center. “They can visit the health center or even talk to their bishops. There is help for everyone; no one is alone.”
Stoddard said some simple things that can make an impact on students are staying healthy in spirit, body and mind. He said maintaining a healthy diet and some form of exercise can help those with depression.
“In the beginning, after I tried ending my life twice, I chose to live out of guilt,” Foster said. “I realized how badly my family and friends would suffer emotionally. I also didn’t fully realize how much the people around me really cared and would be impacted by my death.”
Foster said that those who are going through hard times should stay strong because they may miss out on something great.
Stoddard said depression is hard to deal with alone. He said the best thing someone can do is to be there for those who struggle with depression, listen to what they have to say and encourage them to seek counseling.
“If you know of someone that is struggling with depression, or you think is struggling with it, my biggest advice would be to constantly be there for them, even if it seems like they do not fully recognize your help or need it, they do,” Foster said. “It will make a big difference.”