During his high school years, a very good friend of my son committed suicide. Eddie had been to my house. He was successful in school, had many friends, and seemed to have it made in life. His suicide was sudden and completely unexpected. We will never know why this handsome and gifted young man took his life.
Tragically, there are stories like Eddie’s every day. Over 36,000 people die yearly by suicide in the United States. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young adults and the third leading cause among teens.
Suicide is also strongly linked to mental illness. The National Institute of Mental Health reports one in four adults experiences a mental health disorder annually. But, because of the stigma society attaches to mental illness, far too many people lack access to the help and support they need to treat their disease.
The shame and guilt felt by those who suffer from mental illness is unfair and unwarranted. Our society’s inability to help the victims of mental illness is tragic and inexcusable. We can change this. We MUST change this.
Through education and awareness we can reduce the number of deaths by suicide and increase help-seeking behaviors. The best treatments for serious mental illnesses today are highly effective; between 70 percent to 90 percent of individuals have significant reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life with a combination of pharmacological and psychosocial treatments and supports.
Next Saturday, Aug. 17, my wife and I are joining others in a Walk for Hope — Depression and Suicide Awareness at Northwood University. All funds raised will be used in the Great Lakes Bay Region to host special events, training and education in an effort to build awareness of mental health and suicide prevention, intervention and aftercare. Just as important, this walk gives people the opportunity to come together and share their stories. And by sharing our stories, we may prevent just one person from reaching the desperate point where they view suicide as their only viable option.
If you believe that you suffer from depression or other symptoms related to your mental health, please seek help. If you suspect that someone you know suffers from mental illness, do not wait. Reach out to them and invite them to share their stories. Consider registering to walk with us or sponsoring a walker at http://www.crowdrise.com/walkforhope2013
Together, let us eradicate the shame and guilt felt by our friends and neighbors in need.