September is a month most would identify as ‘Back to School’ month. September is also that special month many of us autumnal enthusiasts would call Pre-October or Pre-Halloween.

Because everyone knows there’s Pre-Halloween, Halloween, Post-Halloween, then Christmas.

The month of September is also nationally known for not only the 9/11 attacks, but also as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

While it is important to recognize the devastating history of Sept. 11, 2001, we must also recognize the struggles of those who find life unbearable.

This, of course, is understandably an uncomfortable subject. While I respect those who don’t wish to discuss this openly, I would like to be the one with the megaphone to share awareness. Discussing tough topics, especially with people suffering who need outside help, is the strongest way to decrease risks of self-harm and suicide.

Many families, friends and coworkers know someone who ended their life abruptly by suicide. It devastates families and friendships, and on an appalling note, it’s frequently met with anger and misunderstanding.

But to quell those initial feelings of anger toward those who don’t see their value in life, we need to learn better ways to help them, through both conversation and action.

As we currently process the pandemic in the past year to now, get back to school or to in-person work, drastic changes like this often cause severe stress, especially for those with mental illnesses. The best way to combat stress, or at least nurture wellbeing during this time, is to do three simple things: reach out, communicate and act if necessary.

Dr. Mark Rosenberg, the president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, says, “this pandemic is contributing significantly to mental health challenges. Simple steps, like checking in with someone you care about, can mean the world, and spotting the warning signs of a mental health emergency can save a life.”

In a press release sent to our papers, it lists possible warning signs of a mental health emergency. The signs include the following:

  • Hopelessness
  • Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities
  • Increased alcohol or drug use
  • Withdrawal from friends, family or society
  • Anxiety, agitation, trouble sleeping or sleeping all the time
  • Dramatic mood changes
  • Prolonged isolation, anxiety or grief

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more children and young adults are going to emergency departments for mental health-related emergencies and suicide attempts.

If you suspect I write from personal experience, you are correct, and as someone who has been through the process of both receiving help, met with appalling treatment and witnessing the same instances with my friends, I’ll share things I would recommend you do for someone struggling.

Act reasonably and rationally.

Talk to them first before you call for medical help, if necessary. Don’t overreact, and don’t overexaggerate the situation to local authorities.

Someone who is struggling that greatly is never in the mindset for massive amounts of attention at once, and the last thing you want to do is throw them into a den of frantic police, EMTs, residential directors/landlords, parents, friends and counselors all at once. That makes most people feel worse.

If your goal is to prevent someone from ending their life, do not over-exaggerate their symptoms or situation to medical professionals or authorities. You will make things worse by doing that. What you end up doing is not only ignoring their current wellbeing, but worsening their outlook of life after the incident is over.

Act accordingly. If someone is on the verge of acting against themselves, immediately call for help and inform responders calmly, rationally and truthfully.

But if the person who is suffering just wants to talk or vent to you, putting their trust in you, don’t be a jerk and call 9-1-1 without talking to them further.

Use your smarts. There’s a reason you have them.

Don’t be a jerk.

I can’t believe I have to spell that one out, but given how people like to treat each other nowadays, I guess I have to.

Too often I’ve seen people call suicidal individuals an ‘idiot’ or are deemed ‘selfish,’ especially to their face. It’s also just heartless, period.

There’s a good reason I don’t keep in touch with certain people due to the above instance.

Nobody, and I can say this with absolute confidence, is ever wanting to end their life out of selfishness. Nobody commits suicide to ‘get back’ at someone, or use their own life as an act of vengeance.

We can thank Hollywood for that bull-crap.

Understand it’s not just brain chemicals.

It’s not only based on the chemical makeup in our brains, though it is part of it. A simple introductory class of psychology can teach you such. Those who suffer with suicidal thoughts and depression often have brain scans that reveal neurotransmitters that are inactive, defective or overworked, often involving a severe lack or irregular amounts of serotonin, dopamine and/or endorphins.

Along with these potential identifiers, depressed individuals might also suffer genetically from this as well. These include things like smaller hippocampuses, which was noted in an fMRI study in “The Journal of Neuroscience,” increased activity in the amygdala, which is the main hotspot for our emotional memories, and the thalamus, which relays information.

Don’t be afraid to extend a hand to or for help.

And if you are afraid, as Will Smith famously said somewhere on the socials, “just do it scared.” It takes great courage to ask for help.

Resources for anyone struggling include the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The confidential service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If you are an individual who identifies in the LGBTQ+ community, there is also a helpline at the Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386.

If you are a woman suffering emotionally and mentally after experiencing domestic violence, call the New Hope for Women helpline at 1-800-522-3304.

Along with local counseling centers and therapists, there are also mobile apps that can now service you with counselors and therapists via telehealth communication, such as BetterHelp, ReGain, Faithful Counseling and TalkSpace.

Read more about ways emergency physicians identify and reduce suicide risks on emergencyphysicians.org. If there is an immediate health emergency or safety risk, call 9-1-1 or visit the closest emergency department.

The American College of Emergency Physicians is the national medical society representing emergency medicine. For more information, visit acep.org and emergencyphysicians.org.

Your life is extremely valuable. If you can’t find the strength to live for yourself, start with living for those you love. It’s a good step towards rediscovering self love.

Emma Testerman is The Courier Gazette’s copy editor. She currently resides somewhere in the back woods, often mistaken for a cryptid. She can be reached at etesterman@villagesoup.com.