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Help prevent suicide in our community
Suicide Prevention Month

Article Lauren Mascarenhas, Communications Coordinator

September is National Suicide Prevention Month and this month San Mateo County is joining a national conversation that aims to raise awareness about suicide prevention, and the everyday steps that we can each take to help prevent suicide in our communities.

According to San Mateo County’s 2017-2020 Suicide Prevention Roadmap, there were 370 suicides in the county between 2010 and 2015, 73.8% of which were male, (three times the rate of females). 68% were white, with the largest age group falling between 45 to 64, followed by age 20 to 44.

With telling statistics and sensational headlines all around, it’s hard not to feel helpless. But the truth is, suicide is preventable and it doesn’t take a trained professional to reach out and help someone. Too many communities do not start having important conversations until tragedy hits close to home. The simple act of talking about suicide openly and honestly can do a great deal to counteract the stigma surrounding this sensitive topic.

There are organizations and hotlines dedicated to listening to and advising those who are having suicidal thoughts or are concerned about a loved one who might be, such as San Mateo County’s StarVista Crisis line, which received 13,113 calls in 2016 alone.

Whether you are concerned about someone specific in your life, or would like to help with the county’s overall suicide prevention efforts, there are concrete actions you can take, big and small, to really make a difference.

Know the signs, find the words, reach out.

Many who have made a suicide attempt have said that if someone were to ask them if they were okay in the weeks, days, or minutes leading up to their attempt, they would have allowed them to intervene. If you are concerned about someone in your life who may be in crisis, there are three concrete steps you can take to help them:

1) know the signs of someone who is having suicidal thoughts,
2) find the words to have a direct conversation with them and
3) reach out for help from the many resources available in San Mateo County and California.

Critical warning signs, like seeking methods for self harm or suicide, warrant an immediate call to 911 or a 24/7 suicide prevention hotline. In San Mateo County, you can call the StarVista 24/7 Crisis Hotline at (650) – 579 – 0350 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1(800) -784-2433. Also, see our guidelines for calling 911 in a mental health emergency.

www.suicideispreventable.org is a great resource for finding a way to take these steps that works for you. When someone you care about is in a crisis, speaking up can save their life.

Educate Yourself

The county is offering a number of trainings related to suicide prevention this month. Check one out on your own, or bring a friend. The more we know about how to recognize the warning signs and what to do, the better.

Can’t make it to a training? You’re just a couple clicks away from tangible resources and information on suicide prevention.  The San Mateo County Suicide Prevention page lists some important resources for those in crisis. If you need to find help in another area, visit the “Reach Out” section of www.suicideispreventable.org for county and state specific resources.

Get Involved

Check out the Roadmap, which delves deeper into the issue of suicide in our community and lays out concrete prevention strategies. We are always looking for community members interested in participating in these efforts. Check out this issue’s MHSA Program Highlight, Suicide Prevention Committee Takes Action, for information on joining the county’s Suicide Prevention Committee. The more people who get involved, the better. 

Read and Share Personal Stories

The stories of those who have lost someone to suicide or experienced suicidal thoughts are not only educational, but powerful. Sharing these stories helps give a face to what is often considered a taboo topic, and brings the issue home for our community. Watch the San Mateo County Health System Facebook page, where we’ll be sharing personal stories from our community members this month.

Show Your Support in the Community

This month we have the opportunity to show our community that we support them. The teal and blue ribbon is a national symbol of suicide prevention. Wearing one on your clothes, or displaying an electronic version on your profile or email signature is a small gesture that goes a long way. Attend one of our suicide prevention trainings and share the Health System’s suicide prevention Facebook or Twitter posts and personal stories to show your online network that you care and you are there for those who might need help.

Check in

Finally, just check in and ask how the people around you are doing. As in any community, it’s immensely important that we watch out for one another. Whether it’s a friend, a family member, colleague or a complete stranger, taking a minute to check in could mean saving a life. Together, we can help prevent suicide in San Mateo County and beyond.

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