Demand more mental health awareness | opinion

To the Editor,

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. As a volunteer and advocate with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, this month I am asking everyone to join us and demand #MoreForMentalHealth.

Suicide prevention is incredibly important to myself and my family. My father, well-respected and prominent member of his community, completed suicide 11 years ago following an undiagnosed battle with depression.

My family’s life was forever changed with my father’s suicide. Nine years later, we continue the healing process from this traumatic event, trying to share our story transparently to try help other families.

My dad was an amazing man. He was incredibly loving, kind, funny and generous. He had so many wonderful qualities and he was so loved — how could he be hurting? It has only been since his death that we as a family realize some of the signs that we hastly dismissed at the end of his life. We have learned a lot about suicide and other mental health issues over the past eleven years. Mental health awareness is especially as so many are suffering from anxiety and depression during the isolation of COVID-19.

I am doing more by calling on my legislators at the federal and state levels to support legislation that will fund the implementation of 988 and the suicide and mental health crisis system across our nation, particularly for those in underserved communities.

Currently, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available at 1-800-273-8255 and de-escalates the crises of tens of thousands of callers each day. On July 16, those in distress and those that support them will be able to reach the Lifeline through a simple 3-digit number: 988. By making the Lifeline more accessible through this shorter number, calls, texts, and chats to the Lifeline’s network of crisis call centers are expected to increase. It is vital that the federal government work with states to ensure callers in distress will have:

— Someone to call;

— Someone to come help;

— Somewhere safe to go.

We must act NOW to secure funding to equip call centers and community crisis response services throughout the country with the staff and resources to respond to everyone in crisis.

Join me this month in urging our federal and state public officials to do #MoreForMentalHealth. You can start by visiting moreformentalhealth.org.

Katherine Greene-Owens

Lexington

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