By Meg Dickens
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), more than 41,000 people die from suicide yearly. More than 1,000 lives are lost in Tennessee alone, making it the tenth leading cause of death in the state. Suicide remains a stigmatized topic despite its prevalence. That is why new County Mayor Mike Taylor signed a proclamation declaring September Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in Johnson County.
Awareness is the first step in decreasing the numbers. Taylor’s proclamation states, “The risk for suicide can be reduced through awareness, education, and treatment.” Many young people keep silent about mental illness due to stigmas. According to the Tennessee Department of Health, suicide is the second leading cause of death among people ages 10-24.
Those who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community are an additional 3.4 percent more likely to attempt suicide. Veterans, active-duty military and National Guardsmen die more often from suicide than combat. It is important to know the signs.
The American Association of Suicidology lists these warning signs:
• Increased substance abuse
• No sense of purpose
• Anxiety, agitation, and a changing sleep cycle
• Feeling trapped
• Withdrawal from friends, family and society
• Reckless behavior
• Dramatic mood changes
States around the nation are fighting back against this loss of life. Tennessee is considered a national leader in the effort due to the Tennessee Strategy for Suicide Prevention Suicide Prevention Network Advisory Council. Now Johnson County is stepping up to do its part. Many may not know that Johnson County has a mental health counseling office and peer support group in Mountain City.
Taylor urges all citizens “to work to prevent suicide and to raise awareness and tolerance around all people affected by this tragedy.” 84 Tennesseans die each month from suicide. This does not have to be the norm. Education and awareness is the key. Johnson County is taking the first steps to improve the overall mental health in the community.