Supporting mental health levy will help many

From a text I read late at night on (10:42 p.m.) Sept. 4, “Hey dad, play Words With Friends. Night. Love you.” Little did I know that this was to be the last communication from my son. The phone call in the wee hours of the next morning, still resonates with me and will be permanently etched in my episodic memory bank. Grant, 25 at the time, took his life. He was my joy, my work partner (we taught swimming together on many occasions), my traveling partner, my advocate ( am severely hearing impaired and he constantly stuck up for me when I couldn’t hear things) and most of all, my son. He did suffer from mental illness and was getting help. As parents, my wife and I thought he was on the mend (he had two jobs and was looking forward to getting an apartment.)

September the 5th, the anniversary of the day of his passing, our family’s charity, “The Bauer Fund”, will be handing out its second allotment of “grants” to programs or to research efforts promoting suicide awareness, mental health awareness and improving access to programs for people with intellectual disabilities. We are proud of last year’s recipients: Brandon Atkinson (MC graduate and now psych researcher at Yale), The Mid-Ohio Valley Learning About Addiction group (MOVLAA), and the nationally renowned Fountain House in New York City (an organization that provides shelter and treatment for homeless individuals and those living with mental health disorders and/or substance use disorders.)

September is Suicide Awareness Month and The J Luce Foundation has declared Sept. 5 as Grant Day around the world. This date is also the United Nations Day of Giving.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (2017 afsp.org) offers some statistics that are worth scrutiny:

¯ Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.

¯ On average, one person dies by suicide in Ohio every 5 hours. (Data from CDC)

¯ In Ohio, suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 15-34 and the third leading cause of death for ages 10-14.

¯ Each year an average of 44,193 Americans die of suicide.

¯ For every suicide there are 25 attempts.

¯ Men die by suicide 3.5 x more often than women.

¯ On average, there are 121 suicides a day in the United States.

¯ White males accounted for 7 of 10 suicides in 2015.

The Washington County Behavioral Health Board (of which I am a member), has a levy that will be voted on by Washington County residents in November. I plead with every voter to support this levy. Washington County is not immune to mental health issues, behavioral health issues and addiction issues. We don’t have a perfect system, BUT we do have phenomenal people in this county who care. We need MORE services and support for our residents. I see it time and time again – many people are turned away from from services and/or are sent away to other counties due to the lack of programs, medical personnel and mental health professionals. The few agencies that are assisting us are overloaded with patients and the need for more help is tremendous.

In the meantime, if a friend or family member has mentioned they are wanting to end their life, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The Lifeline has an online chat service for those who are hearing impaired or want to type. Look for warning signs, which are in no way comprehensive; some people hide their unhappiness well. Sometimes we need to look beneath the “iceberg” as what we see on top may not be what is going on underneath. You cannot always tell when someone is considering suicide but some common things to look for are:

¯ Talking about suicide or ending their life.

¯ Withdrawing from social contacts.

¯ Feeling trapped or hopeless.

¯ Increasing use of alcohol or drugs.

¯ Behaving self-destructively.

¯ Giving away belongings.

¯ Saying goodbye to people as if they were not going to be seen again.

¯ Exhibiting personality changes (agitated or anxious.)

¯ Being preoccupied with death, dying or violence

If a person has attempted:

¯ Don’t leave the person alone.

¯ Call 911 immediately (or if you can, take the person to the ER).

¯ Let trained professionals do their job.

My hope is that Washington County residents will support this much needed levy. As a board member and lifelong Washington County resident, I will make sure that we help our citizens.

William M. “Bill” Bauer, Ph.D., CRC, is a Provisionally Licensed Counselor and a member of the Washington County Behavioral Heath Board. Behavioral Health Matters runs monthly on the Opinion page.

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