May is Mental Awareness Month Jennifer Bridge

Naomi Judd has brought a national spotlight on mental illness and suicide. Many of you know I grew up the northeastern part of the Commonwealth. I was surrounded by music, especially the music of Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley, Patty Loveless, Billy Ray Cyrus and the Judd’s. They were locals to us, and their success brought us much pride even if we grew weary of their number one hits seemingly being played on repeat. The Judd’s were from Ashland and Naomi (Diana), went to high school with my first cousin so I felt like I knew her well. I once had the opportunity to meet Naomi at a book signing and mentioned I grew in a little town call Webbville. She replied “The Webbville by Fallsburg in Lawrence County?” I quickly explained the same Webbville but in Elliott County, just across the county line (it’s a post office thing). Naomi was a people person, and she never forgot her roots. Her early childhood experiences had a profound impact on her later life providing both happy and extremely dark memories. Mental illness is so much more than bad memories. It is a complex series of many factors, and it is important a professional in the area be consulted. One cannot allow antiquated opinions and misunderstanding of this complex illness to prevent professional consultations or treatment. Suicide is a small component of mental illness and not all suicide deaths are caused by mental illness. Suicide is a death that occurs when a person takes their own life. Here in the U.S., someone dies by suicide every 11 minutes. That is about 47,000 people dying every year. Usually, more people between 10 and 34 die by suicide each year. Persons older than 60 are also at high risk. During 2018, 10.7 million adults seriously considered suicide, and 3.3 million of those adults planned for suicide. By contrast, 1.4 million adults attempted to die by suicide; however, many of those adults never made plans before their attempt. Problems associated with rural living contribute to more people considering suicide. In Kentucky, suicide is the second leading cause of death for those between 10 and 34. For Kentuckians between 35 and 44, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death. Overall, the rate of suicide in Kentucky is about 25% higher than the national average. Certain rural counties experience a higher percentage of suicides. Rural living poses unique challenges like increased poverty and few good-paying jobs. Social and geographical isolation are also challenging. Other factors associated with higher risk of suicide include depression and anxiety, alcohol or substance misuse, relationship problems or loss, or knowing someone who died by suicide. A person might show they are thinking about suicide through verbal and nonverbal behaviors. Verbal behaviors may include making statements like “I’m better off dead” or “I cannot go on like this.” Nonverbal behaviors include activities like putting one’s affairs in order, giving away prized possessions, or neglecting personal responsibilities. If you notice a friend or family member experiencing potential suicidal behaviors, it is important to ask them if they are thinking of dying by suicide and contact professional support. To obtain help and support, you can contact the Call the NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LINE: 1-800-273-8255 OR Text the CRISIS TEXT LINE: Text or HOPE to 741741 Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of and thankfully more resources are available than ever before. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional if you or a friend need help. Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expressions, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, or physical or mental disability.

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