AUGUST 27, ORLANDO – According to a just released study by Mental Health America 54% of 11–17-year-olds reported frequent suicidal thoughts or self-harm in the previous two weeks, the highest rate since screening began in 2014. As the oldest community-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and promoting the overall mental health of all the Mental Health Association of Central Florida (MHACF.org) is intensifying its recently launched You Are A Lifeguard suicide awareness campaign as a key part of its participation in National Suicide Prevention Month beginning September 1st.
Throughout the month MHACF will work to encourage people to pledge to be a “Lifeguard,” and take an active role in suicide prevention by being present for individuals they know that may be struggling emotionally and providing them with support and resources to get help. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) most recent data, suicide is the second leading cause of death among high school-aged youths 14–18 years after unintentional injuries and the fourth leading cause in adults. In fact, the CDC reported that the rate of suicide attempts among adolescent girls increased significantly during the first months of 2021. The You Are a Lifeguard campaign was conceived to build suicide prevention awareness and resources by MHACF with financial support from the Central Florida Foundation and Orange County Government.
“This recent rise in suicide ideation has been absolutely heartbreaking to see. Individual stressors and the effects of the pandemic continue to negatively affect the community’s mental health and wellbeing, particularly adolescents as we see them returning to face to face learning in schools in the midst of a significant surge in the Delta variant of COVID-19” said Marni Stahlman, President/CEO of MHACF.
While the rise in suicide is devastating, it’s important to remember there are ways to reduce suicide. “The first step to preventing suicide is education, making sure people in emotional distress know there are resources that can help. If they do not know where to start, we are encouraging our neighbors to either call us directly where they can speak with a Connections specialist that will connect them with resources and options regardless if they have health insurance or visit the YouAreALifeguard.org portal” said Stahlman. “The first step is removing barriers for those in need. According to the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, less than half of Americans who have a mental health disorder get proper treatment. This is in large part because people don’t know where to start. Therefore, we provide our Mental Health Connections program, which people can call, and where we will work to assist them with any variety of needs that impact their mental health and wellness.”
For the past eleven years, in conjunction with AdventHealth and Orange County Government, the MHACF has operated the Outlook Clinic, the only mental health free clinic with individuals without health insurance. In 2020-21 771 patients, 48% of whom were fully employed but lacking health coverage, were provided psychological counseling and psychiatric pharmacology in support of their mental health recovery.
MHACF is pleased to have partnered with the Central Florida Foundation to make the You Are A Lifeguard initiative possible and hope you will Take the Pledge today to help build awareness and help prevent suicide at www.YouAreALifeguard.org.