A lot of people have asked me about the picture that we often post.
I am holding a votive candle and smiling. The picture was taken earlier this year at a candlelight vigil to promote mental health awareness. The story of how I arrived at that candlelight vigil is long and a bit complicated. I talk about it in some detail in my Tell Your Story video, which I have reposted below for those of you interested.
However, there is nothing in my story as important as the fact that on that day–mental health justice was born. I was determined to create a space where there was no judgment and no stigma. A place where everyone was open to talk about their illness, their on-going challenges and their recovery.
I had no idea then that seven months later mentalhealthjustice.net would be one of the fastest growing mental health advocacy organizations in the nation.
On a very modest budget, we have grown our community to nearly 9,000 members. We were told by some so-called social media experts that 5,000 members was an ambitious but realistic goal for a year–if only we had twice the budget.
I'd like to say, I proved them wrong. However, that would be wrong. It's all of us together as a mental health community that has proved them wrong. Still, we all know we're not here just to make abstract points about the size and power of our community–we are here to stop stigma, stop judgment and make a difference in people's lives.
That's why we have launched our Virtual Candlelight Vigil Campaign in observance of World Suicide Prevention Day. The facts related to suicide are staggering.
Suicide claims more lives than war, murder, and natural disasters combined.
According to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention:
- In 2013 (latest available data), there were 41,149 reported suicide deaths.
- Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for adults between the ages of 15 and 64 years in the United States.
- Currently, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.
- A person dies by suicide about every 12.8 minutes in the United States.
- Every day, approximately 112 Americans take their own life.
- Ninety percent of all people who die by suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death.
- There are four male suicides for every female suicide, but three times as many females as males attempt suicide.
- 494,169 people visited a hospital for injuries due to self-harm behavior, suggesting that approximately 12 people harm themselves (not necessarily intending to take their lives) for every reported death by suicide.
and Depression is the main cause:
- 25 million Americans suffer from depression each year.
- Over 50 percent of all people who die by suicide suffer from major depression. If one includes alcoholics who are depressed, this figure rises to over 75 percent.
- Depression affects nearly 5-8 percent of Americans ages 18 and over in a given year.
- More Americans suffer from depression than coronary heart disease, cancer, and HIV/AIDS.
- Depression is among the most treatable of psychiatric illnesses. Between 80 percent and 90 percent of people with depression respond positively to treatment, and almost all patients gain some relief from their symptoms. But first, depression has to be recognized.
To do our part for World Suicide Prevention Day...
...we are asking all our members to join in our virtual candlelight vigil. Simply take a picture of yourself with a burning candle. Then:
- Post the picture to our Facebook Page and please include a message if you'd like.
- Send us the picture at email@example.com and we will post it.
- Post this suicide hotline prevention poster on your Facebook page.
- Please feel free to post through Sunday, September 13th.
Many of us have known a loved one or a friend that has committed suicide.
And almost all of us (if we're honest with ourselves) has had a thought related to suicide. When one is severely depressed the line between suicide and hope can be very thin. Often an understanding and supportive voice is what one needs to overcome their despair and continue living a purposeful life.
Please join our Virtual Candlelight Vigil Campaign and let those suffering from the despair of suicidal thoughts know that there are many, many people who care and we are there for them.
Mental Health Justice. No stigma, no judgment. Everyone is welcome.