May is Mental Heath Awareness Month
It has been on my calendar every year because mental illness impacts so many people we serve in the community. I have participated annually in the NAMI walk, supported suicide prevention activities, and interviewed staff and volunteers who devote their time to helping people who are in distress. Advocating on behalf of the individuals and families impacted by mental illness – and our staff who are dedicated to helping – makes me feel like I am contributing in some small way.
But then it hit home.
I met the friends of Vince Geier who all wanted to do something, anything, to try to cope with losing their friend to suicide. They took their pain and took action. Some of them knew each other and some didn’t, but they all knew Vince. They came together to coordinate an amazing, inspiring event, Vincinnati, to honor their friend and increase awareness for suicide prevention. They wanted to make sure no other friends felt the same way they did. I got to know them, and through these dear friends and his mother, I got to know Vince.
I thought I understood their pain…
But then a father of two; a kind, calm, professional, former co-worker who shared a birthday with me, did the unthinkable. For the years that we worked down the hall, I didn’t know the demons he fought. He took his life one regular, ordinary day. I doubt I am alone in this but I was left with so many feelings of “what if”. What if I called him more than just once a year on our birthday? What if I had taken the time to really check on him after his divorce? What if I had stopped by his office to say hello the last time I was in the building? What if he had gotten the help he needed?
Mental illness touches many lives.
In Hamilton County, about 160,000 residents – one out of every five – are affected by mental illness. The suicides increased from 98 in 2010 to 117 in 2011. Each of those deaths represents grieving parents, grandparents, children, aunts, uncles, and friends. And the fact is these deaths are preventable. There is help. If you are concerned for someone’s safety or you feel like life is not worth living, call us at 281-CARE (513-281-2273). If you are not local, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
What if one person reached out and made that call?
Resources: NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Mental Health Works Hamilton Co. Coroner 2011 Annual Report
Hamilton County has generously voted for the mental health levy that will be on the ballot in November. Please be sure to register to vote and take the opportunity to support those coping every day with a mental illness.