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Make a difference, end the stigma

It’s extremely hard to talk about mental health. There’s an unfair stigma.

But you’re not alone: an estimated 26 percent of Americans 18 and older suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder.

The conversation around mental health and suicide needs to change.

One caring conversation really can make all the difference.

Recognize the risk factors or characteristics that make it more likely that someone might consider suicide: people with mental health disorders, substance abuse, hopelessness, impulsive behavior, history of trauma or abuse, major physical illness, previous suicide attempts, job or financial loss, loss of relationship, lack of social support or sense of isolation, stigma associated with asking for help, and lack of healthcare are some of the risks.

Don’t ignore the warning signs, they may help you determine if a loved one is at risk, especially if the behavior is new, has increased or is related to a painful event: Talking about wanting to die, looking for ways to kill themselves, talking about feeling hopeless, talking about feeling trapped, talking about being a burden, increased use of alcohol or drugs, acting anxious or agitated, behaving recklessly, sleeping too much or too little, isolating themselves, showing rage or talking about revenge and extreme mood swings.

You can be the difference in getting someone help that they need.

• Ask — are you thinking about suicide?

• Keep them safe — find things to establish immediate safety.

• Be there — be present either physically or on the phone.

• Help them connect — connect them with community resources.

• Follow up to see how they’re doing.

Veterans are at a much higher risk for developing untreated mental health conditions. The risk of suicide for veterans is 22 veterans higher than civilians and veterans that live in rural areas have a 20 veterans higher risk than those living in suburban or urban areas, according to the Veterans’ Administration for Rural Health.

Do your part. Talk to family, friends and neighbors.

Make a difference.

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