Emily Rice Published

September Is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

A sign displays resources for those struggling with mental health, a helpline called 988.
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.
Ryan Levi/Tradeoffs

Suicide is a major public health concern and a leading cause of death in the U.S. according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

West Virginia’s age-adjusted suicide rate was higher than the national level in 2021. The age-adjusted suicide rate per 100,000 in the U.S. was 14.1 in the same year West Virginia’s rate was 20.6.

In 2022, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline became 988, an easy-to-remember number created to help people dealing with depression, substance use and suicidal ideation and more get immediate help and be guided to additional resources.

First Choice operates several programs and helplines across six states including West Virginia with the common goal of promoting well-being and helping those in need access behavioral health and social services.

“We have counselors, trained crisis counselors available 24/7 every day of the year to answer calls, chats and texts for people in crisis, or having thoughts of suicide,” said Rozanna Bracken, the director of the West Virginia 988 line.

The lines give people the option to talk to someone who will not judge them about what is going on in their lives, and receive guidance for healthy coping mechanisms.

“That’s kind of the biggest benefit, I think, is the availability of the line, no matter who reaches us, you know, if you’ve got internet or phone, you’re able to reach out, you don’t have to have a certain speed of internet or anything,” Bracken said.

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of harming themselves or others, they can text or call 988 at any time for help.

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting with support from Charleston Area Medical Center and Marshall Health.