Lines for Life CEO Dwight Holton discusses rising rates of suicide amid COVID-19 pandemic
‘We need to tear down the stigma around getting help’
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect nearly every aspect of our lives, including mental health.
Depression rates have tripled in the U.S. since the onset of COVID-19, with common symptoms of depression (trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, lethargy) affecting nearly a quarter of Americans. Suicide rates, especially among youth, are also on the rise.
A survey of 10,000 Americans, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that nearly 11 percent of respondents had “seriously considered” suicide. This percentage was more than twice as high (1 in 4) for individuals between the ages of 18 and 24.
“This is a time of real stress and anxiety and that’s precisely what we ought to be talking about: tearing down the stigma around getting help,” said Dwight Holton, CEO of Lines for Life, an Oregon-based nonprofit dedicated to preventing substance abuse and suicide.
Holton recently appeared on KATU, Oregon’s ABC-affiliate broadcast network, to discuss why a focus on suicide prevention is more important than ever.
National Suicide Prevention Week, Sunday, Sept. 6 through Saturday, Sept. 12 this year, serves as an annual opportunity to engage the general public about suicide prevention and how to recognize warning signs of suicide. This year’s theme is ‘#Bethe1to,” which encourages individuals to be the one to step up and help friends, loved ones or coworkers who may be struggling and in need of help.
“If you break your wrist, nobody thinks twice about going to the ER or the doctor,” said Holton. “But we’re reluctant to talk about our mental wellness. We need to change that mindset.”
Solving the challenge of suicide in our communities starts with you
We can all help prevent suicide and it starts with knowing the warning signs.
While suicide does not have one single cause, indications that a person may be in danger and in need of help could include: talking about wanting to die or kill one's self, suddenly withdrawing from friends, or a change in behavior, such as an increased use of drugs or alcohol.
It’s also important to understand how to get help. If you think a friend or loved one may be grappling with suicidal thoughts, talk to them, be there for them and connect them with resources.
Holton says that you want to be ready to ask the questions ‘How are you feeling?’ and ‘What can I do to help?’ – both appropriate ways to open up a dialogue with an individual who may be in crisis.
Lines for Life offers a variety of programs to meet the needs of our communities, including a resource that helps seniors experiencing loneliness or having difficulty connecting and YouthLine, a teen-to-teen crisis helpline.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is open 24 hours a day at 800-273-8255.
Regence is proud to support Lines for Life and their efforts to address a spectrum of needs – intervention, prevention and advocacy – and offer hope and healing in our communities. Learn more about how Regence is supporting its members, providers and communities.