Local healthcare leaders stress importance of National Suicide Awareness Month during COVID-19 Pandemic

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- Suicide prevention is one of the most difficult topics to talk about, however, relies on tough conversations to save lives. Local healthcare leaders say it’s more important than ever to break the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide.

National Suicide Prevention Month takes place every September; singling out September 10th as National Suicide Prevention Day. This year especially, healthcare experts are hoping the message behind these events is heard.

Dr. Kenneth Perry is an Emergency Medicine Specialist at Trident Medical Center. He believes that the stigma surrounding mental health struggles has been diminishing over the last few years.

“The stigma behind mental health has really relaxed itself,” he says, “people finally understand that it’s a common medical condition.”

That said, he has noticed that mental health cases have been increasing since the COVID-19 Pandemic.

“Cases of mental health; it’s something that we see quite regularly in the emergency department. Unfortunately is on the rise, it’s certainly a concern for us,” says Dr. Perry.

This impact is also seen on a national scale. A recent report from the CDC shows 40% of American adults are struggling with mental health or substance abuse. 11 percent had seriously considered suicide in the last 30 days.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline has not seen an increase in suicide related calls, however, reports an uptick in mental-health related calls in the last few months.

“We’ve gotten a lot of first time callers that their mental health, this is maybe the first time they’ve struggled with it because for the first time in their life they’re dealing with some financial issues,” says Jamie Cody from the helpline center.

Dr. Perry says that one of the challenges that comes with helping someone who may be considering suicide or harming themselves is knowing that they need help in the first place.

“If you’re having a heart attack, you can see it on an EKG. Or, if you’re having a stroke people might say ‘oh, your arm isn’t moving.’ It’s really difficult to determine if someone is having an episode of depression that might cause them to commit suicide or hurt themselves,” he says.

Medical experts say this is why spreading awareness for suicide prevention is incredibly important and can help save lives. If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts or needs mental health support, you can call the number 211 at anytime.

Local health experts from Trident Medical Center will be holding a conference on Thursday, National Suicide Prevention Day. We will be updating with the latest after the event.