With Arizona marking September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, we recognize the COVID-19 pandemic has brought on many stressors, including emotional hardships, that can impact the overall health and mental well-being of Arizonans. It has never been more important for us to stay connected to the people we care about.
ADHS recently launched a campaign highlighting the positive effect of social connection on physical and mental health. Start a Conversation includes broadcast advertisements, social media posts, and a website — azdhs.gov/StartAConversation — with resources for individuals, employers and health care providers.
Feelings of loneliness, stress, anxiety and depression can affect people of all ages and can be risk factors for mental health disorders and even suicide. Last year, we lost over 1,400 lives to suicide in Arizona, and many more experienced thoughts of suicide. Some groups of Arizonans carry a higher burden of suicide, including males over the age of 65, veterans, those living in rural settings, and American Indians.
Preventing suicides is a key goal in our 2021-25 Arizona Health Improvement Plan, with public and private partners working together to increase suicide-prevention training, increase access to mental health services, and increase use of those services.
There’s a role for each of us as well. You may have a friend or family member who is struggling, and you can #BeThe1To reach out and start a conversation. You can learn the warning signs of suicide and the resources available to help.
It is important to know immediate help is available:
Individuals in crisis can reach out for additional support through:
The AHCCCS Suicide Prevention website has resources by county at: azahcccs.gov
We need each other now more than ever, and being kind to one another is the foundation of healthy, resilient communities.
Editor's note: Sheila Sjolander is assistant director of the Arizona Department of Health Services and leads the Division of Public Health Prevention Services. This blog post first appeared at azdhs.gov.