September is Suicide Awareness Month. As suicide awareness events pop up across the Capital Region, the Department of Health and Human Services is touting the massive impact the new suicide prevention lifeline has had on suicides.
Students and staff at Siena College recently spent on day reading people's personal stories of suicide displayed on backpacks across the quad. Those who have been impacted by suicide never forget how crushing the experience can be. "Back in 2011, I did have two students ten days apart, die by suicide, and I just saw the destruction it did to the family, the community. It really makes you take stock of who you are and what you’re doing," said Siena College Director of Field Experiences David Bernsley.
"A lot of people are afraid to talk about it," said Siena college Student Wellness Coordinator Erin O'Neill.
MORE: Crisis centers connecting with more people since rollout of shortened 988 Lifeline
But there is some good news on the suicide front. The Department of Health and Human Services released new data showing the new national suicide prevention lifeline may have saved more than 150,000 lives in just the last month. The new 988 number went into effect in July, replacing a longer and more difficult to remember number. Since then, in August alone, DHS says there was a 45% increase in overall volume compared to August 2021.
"The only way to end the stigma surrounding mental health is to talk about the problems that are on college campuses," said Siena College Active Minds President Elizabeth Burns.
MORE: 988 mental health hotline receives over 96,000 calls, text, chats in 1st week
Siena College raised awareness of suicide with an event called Send Silence Packing, a mobile display that travels to colleges across the country, sharing suicide stories and connecting students with resources in addition to the 988 number that so many are bravely dialing.
"There you see, there’s thousands of stories on the quad. They’re not alone. Their voice matters. Their story matters and to not be afraid to ask for help."
This August, the 988 suicide lifeline received about 152,000 contacts through calls, chats and texts. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicide, dial 988. Help is available there 24 hours a day, seven days a week.