Blog Post

Preventing the Most Preventable Cause Of Death

September 21, 2023

Blog Post

Preventing the Most Preventable Cause Of Death

September 21, 2023
Debbie Fitzgerald, Director of Crisis Services - Ozark Center
September is Suicide Awareness Month

Life can have its dark moments. For some, these moments can lead to a crisis, at which time an individual reaches her or his breaking point and suicide may seem like the only escape from the emotional pain.

Each year, we lose approximately 48,000 Americans to suicide, or approximately 134 lives a day. Here in Missouri, those numbers are indisputably headed in the wrong direction: We lost 1,177 individuals to suicide in 2021 and more than 1,200 in 2022. 

That said, suicide is among our most serious public health crises and a leading cause of death in America. The collateral damage is sweeping, with social, emotional and economic consequences. 

However, it’s also the most preventable type of death.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and anyone can take action to help prevent suicide. Regardless of how significant our actions may seem, we can provide hope to those who are in crisis and might be contemplating suicide – provided we’re willing to listen and talk openly about those dark moments.

Conversations about emotional well-being can be difficult. However, for a person in despair, simply articulating that fear or sadness to a supportive listener can help him or her share that burden, feel relief and regrasp hope. So if you notice someone struggling, tell them they’re noticed, because your acknowledgment could save a life. 

On an individual level, there are simple ways we can identify and manage common life stressors in ourselves. The Centers for Disease Control recommends these practices for handling discontent and despair:

-    “Breaks” from watching or reading the news
-    Healthy eating
-    Getting plenty of quality sleep
-    Regular exercise
-    Taking time to unwind
-    Talking to others
-    Connecting with community- or faith-based organizations
-    Avoiding drugs and alcohol

If your situation isn’t improving, or you’re trying to help someone else through a rough patch, local resources are ready. 

The 988 crisis line Ozark Center – one of 200 nationwide 988 call centers, takes calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Regardless if the situation seems life-threatening, any individual in crisis or a concerned other can dial 988 to reach a trained crisis specialist for support. This support includes brief supportive counseling, referrals and education, and there is no charge for seeking help from a 988 professional or at the local crisis center.

People do care, and we can help. 

Debbie Fitzgerald is Director of Crisis Services for Ozark Center, which has been active in suicide prevention for more than 20 years. For more information, call 417.347.7720 or visit