Protecting the behavioral health and safety of Americans is central to everything we do here at SAMHSA. Preventing the tragic loss of life from suicide is a unique challenge. We have learned that it takes a coordinated effort at all levels, from government to organizations to local communities – down to the individual level. Just being a caring friend or neighbor can go a long way in preventing others from thoughts of suicide.This week, September 10-16, is National Suicide Prevention Week. During this week, we are highlighting the many ways that SAMHSA supports the national efforts to prevent suicide every day, using a variety of tools, resources, and partnerships.
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It is one thing to hear in the abstract that America suffers from a stubbornly high rate of suicide and suicide attempts. But when it hits home—as it did for me years ago when a young neighbor, struggling with serious mental illness, died from suicide—we realize we have to ask some tough questions.
What could we possibly do to stop someone from taking his or her life? What are we failing to do for our neighbors and family members struggling with substance abuse or serious mental illness? What can we do to address the fact that this problem is especially acute among those whom we owe the most, our veterans? How can we fail to see when a loved one or neighbor is struggling?
Each new school year brings a mixture of emotions for students, whether they are heading off to pre-school through post-graduate studies. They may mourn the end of summer but look forward to seeing friends. They may be excited about new challenges but worry about academic pressure and peer pressure. As developing minds process these emotions, they often complicate emerging or ongoing behavioral health issues. Given that one-half of mental illnesses begin before age 14 and three quarters before age 25, it is critical, therefore, for students to have access to high-quality behavioral health services.