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Finding solutions to a myriad of mental health issues – for people of all ages – is not just a one-month-a-year situation. It’s something that clearly needs to be addressed at different levels all year long.

But it’s also not a bad thing to shine the spotlight on the problem, especially when it comes to young people, and that’s the plan across the nation throughout September.

National Suicide Prevention Month

We’re in the midst of National Suicide Prevention Month, and here in Racine, the Improving Children’s Mental Health Coalition continues its work to improve the mental health of children in the Racine Unified School District.

“It is incredibly important to have awareness of children’s mental health as early as possible, because the earlier we intervene, the better the outcomes typically are,” said Hollie White, project coordinator for the coalition. “Just like any other healthcare concerns, the quicker and sooner we act, the more likely that the issue will improve, rather than worsen.”

The Coalition, funded through a grant from Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin, has aligned itself with other groups across the state and nation for National Suicide Prevention Month, according to a press release.

“(This) is a time to spread the word about actions we can all take to prevent suicide,” the release reads. “Contrary to what is believed, research has shown that acknowledging and talking about suicide may reduce, rather than increase, suicidal thoughts.”

suicide prevention month, mental health
Finding self-care strategies is an important step in maintaining your mental health. – Credit: Samson Katt / Pexels

Mental health issues were spotlighted in 2020 when daily life across the globe was forever affected by the COVID-19 pandemic – and young people especially were hit hard with the loss of many social activities as the world went into long-lasting lockdowns.

And those effects remain today, White said, and it’s not just with children.

“We still have a need for mental health services and (are) still seeing the after-effects of needing mental health care for our young people,” she said. “We continue to see a need and a value for social-emotional health prevention strategies through all sectors.

“We all can benefit from preventative/self-care strategies, but there are many people who are still facing the after-effects of COVID via the stress of unemployment, learning virtually and struggling to not be in person, increased isolation, health implications, etc.”

‘The Year of Mental Health’

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers earlier had declared 2023 as “The Year of Mental Health,” and he called mental and behavioral health a “burgeoning crisis” that affects the state’s children, families and workforce. According to the release, Wisconsin is on track to report more than 900 deaths by suicide this year.

During September alone, about 1.3 million people in the United States will have suicidal thoughts, 142,000 will attempt suicide, and 4,000 will die, according to statistics from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.

Suicide is the 12th-leading cause of death overall in the U.S.

Finding resources to assist remains a high priority, White said.

“We can access resources at any time, and it is crucial to work to be preventative for ourselves, those we care for, those we serve, etc.,” she said. “It is important to check in with ourselves, engage in self-care consistently, learn and utilize healthy coping skills and prioritize connection with others, rather than isolating ourselves.”

Here are five action steps to help someone who may be experiencing a suicidal crisis or emotional distress:

  • Ask: “Are you thinking about suicide?” communicates that you’re open to speaking about suicide in a non-judgmental and supportive way.
  • Keep them safe. Reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal items or places is an important part of suicide prevention. While this is not always easy, asking if the at-risk person has a plan and removing or disabling the lethal means can make a difference.
  • Be there. This could mean being physically present for someone, speaking with them on the phone, or any other way that shows support for the person at risk. Listen carefully and learn what the individual is thinking and feeling.
  • Help them connect. Helping someone with thoughts of suicide connect with ongoing support can help them establish a safety net for those moments they find themselves in a crisis. These supports could be a family member, friend, spiritual advisor or mental health professional.
  • Stay connected. Staying in touch after a crisis or after being discharged from care can 4make a difference.

The Coalition has created a “Network of Care” website that contains a host of resources all in one location. The free site serves people in Racine County as well as families in the RUSD.

Other resources can be utilized by calling or texting 988, a confidential suicide and crisis lifeline; using chat services at or texting NAMI to 741741.

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