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Suicide Prevention Month: Veteran and Mental Health Expert Advises Loved Ones To Create Network of Support During Pandemic
Sept. 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day, a global event to raise awareness that suicide can be prevented. According to the International Association for Suicide Prevention, over 800,000 people die by suicide annually, representing 1 person every 40 seconds. It is the 15th-leading cause of death globally, accounting for 1.4 percent of all deaths
Kenneth Marfilius is an assistant teaching professor at Syracuse University’s Falk College and a veteran. Professor Marfilius specializes in military mental health, veteran social work, suicide prevention, substance use prevention and treatment and military culture and social work practice.
Prof. Marfilius is available for an interview to discuss suicide prevention. For use in your stories, he answers four questions related to suicide prevention and mental health awareness:
Who is impacted by suicide the most?
Professor Marfilius: “Suicide affects all of us. It does not discriminate in terms of background, gender, age, race, etc. Suicidal thoughts are also more common than we think, but should not be normalized because it often indicates more serious, underlying issues.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently published an article that found during June 24-30, 2020, U.S. adults reported considerably elevated adverse conditions associated with COVID-19. Younger adults, adults of racial ethnic minorities, essential workers and unpaid adult caregivers reported having experienced disproportionately worse mental health outcomes, increased substance use, and elevated suicidal ideation.
“Instead of leaving with feelings of guilt, shame and further stigma, we have to continually provide avenues that do not prevent our loved ones from talking openly about the loss in their life. We also have to assist in helping them find resources to navigate the tragedy and often traumatic experience of loss.”
Are there any warning signs someone may be considering suicide?
Professor Marfilius: “There are some warning signs, but no one particular indicator. They include substance use and abuse, depression that goes untreated, an individual threatening to kill themselves. This could also include posts on social media about death or suicide, seeking access to lethal means, and displaying extreme mood swings. These are just a few of the warning signs we should look out for and be aware of.”
What advice do you have for veterans experiencing loneliness as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Professor Marfilius: “No one will be able to get through this pandemic alone. And even when they’re experiencing a rise in mental health challenges, or suicidal ideation, we work to get them connected to professionals and wrap around support from their peers, community and loved ones. Social support is one of our greatest protective factors. Fortunately, through the use of innovative technologies like telehealth services, which I only expect to increase exponentially, we can continue to stay socially connected and really care for one another while staying physically separated.”
What can I do today to support someone considering suicide?
Professor Marfilius: “Actively listening, expressing empathy and being willing to be a part of someone’s integrated network of support are very helpful ways to support someone who may be considering suicide. Most notably, be sure to express that they’re not alone. It’s important to engage in this language so that these individuals do not feel othered and begin to isolate themselves.”
To request interviews or get more information:
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