Advocates Call for More Mental Health Services as Suicide Prevention Month Begins
DOVER, DE- As Wednesday marks the beginning of Suicide Awareness and Prevention month, advocates for mental health are pointing to an American academy of pediatrics study that found ER visits for self-harm were up among high school and college students.
Advocates like the Kennedy Forum say suicide prevention means more than just a hotline– it’s all the resources that can help someone before they feel they need to call.
“When we think about all other diseases like diabetes or cardiovascular health we don’t wait till someone has their foot amputated to intervene instead we make sure they get blood work and medication they need- we need do to the same thing when it comes to mental health,” said Kennedy Forum Education Specialist Amy Kennedy.
Amy Kennedy believes students need services inside the schools if they’re struggling with their mental health before they end up in the emergency room or worse.
She says mental health should be normalized in schools as part of health check-ups with screenings and services at no cost to students.
She believes that service needs to be provided, on-site and to all students, to remove the stigma, and let students know that there are a variety of mental health resources that are available, long before suicide prevention enters the conversation.
“It’s really hard to focus on learning and academics when you are dealing with intrusive thoughts-when we are able to add the support we need people are more engaged on what they want to be focused on,” she said.
She believes that a new healthcare infrastructure should be created, not just at the school level that allows people to feel they can confront any mental health challenges before they become severe, preventing suicides by having these services act as tools of early intervention and support.
The system would need to be viewed as part of physical health and used by all, not seen as a measure to only use in a crisis, as it would not allow more support to happen earlier.
The Kennedy Forum has been pushing for these types of treatments to be available for those inside and outside of the classroom, as they view preventative care as always more effective, and the sooner the intervention the more suicides can be prevented.
“When we are talking about this point in crisis we are ignoring all the steps leading up this point-we need to really be focused on how do we help someone before they are getting to a hotline,” Kennedy said.
Kenny says its part of Mental Health America’s branding for suicide intervention known as Before Stage 4, stage 4 being where suicidal ideations start to develop in individuals with acute mental health challenges.
But some people will need to rely on a hotline as a last resort for help and hope.
Delaware recently passed legislation creating the 988 lines to quickly get callers to the suicide hotline.
Delaware’s second in command says-its not just having someone to talk to it’s knowing help is there and there’s no shame in asking for it.
“It is important people know that they can call the 988 hope line that they can dial 988 that their are resources that they don’t have to worry about being judged or biased,” said Delaware Lt. Gov Bethany Hall-Long.
Long says she has been proud to work as part of the Delaware Medical Consortium to advocate for more mental health care, but the problem of funding and stigma can make securing benefits for people difficult.
She says the challenge can be convincing lawmakers that mental health matters and is worth investing in.
Kennedy believes that that can prevent politicians from taking mental health problems and legislation seriously, stigma is an even bigger problem for those who need the care, as even the best mental health care system wouldn’t work if people felt guilty or ashamed to use it.
Kennedy told 47ABC her group also advocates to ensure healthcare parity, ensuring insurance picks up the tab for Mental Health care as often as any other care, which according to a Delaware Department of Insurance investigation, was not happening.
She says she hopes to reframe suicide, not as a failure of individual strength and will, but rather as a failure of health system that didn’t offer enough support before someone felt they had no other options.