Suicide is the second leading cause of death among teenagers.
It takes the lives of more of our troops in the Middle East than ISIS.
Yet, it is preventable.
Mental health and suicidality directly impact an estimated 60,000 people in the Norfolk community. This is an epidemic, and one that Norfolk community members are trying to confront head on with Mentally Healthy Norfolk Month.
“All cities must recognize the importance of helping their citizens achieve their potential in a healthy, supportive environment,” said Dr. Theresa Whibley, Vice Mayor of Norfolk, and a member of the Mentally Healthy Norfolk organizing committee. “Mental illness and its most serious extension, suicide, touches all of our community. Our hope is to provide tangent opportunities to help us recognize and hopefully prevent such tragedies. By expanding our awareness we can then move forward to provide better advocacy and access to services.”
Mentally Healthy Norfolk Month kicks off with Talk Saves Lives mental health first aid trainings at five locations across the city this Monday, October 2nd, including at Slover Library, O’Connor Brewing Company, Southside Aquatic Center, Pretlow Library and Lamberts Point Community Center. Click here for more on the event.
“The research shows these kinds of trainings have great positive impacts for community members and other professionals like the military or first responders,” said Professor Rob Cramer who teaches at Old Dominion University and is a member of the Mentally Healthy Norfolk organizing committee. “From a public health perspective, we tend to see that trainees gain knowledge and skills necessary to assist those in mental health need. The stigma of mental health concerns is also often reduced.”
The month continues with programming aimed at fostering conversations about how we can better protect our military population from depression and suicide, the impact of depression and mental health on the LGBT community, and more. Click here for more details on MHN events this month.
The City of Norfolk has proclaimed October to be Depression Awareness Month. The Norfolk School Board is currently considering a more robust suicide prevention and response policy.
“We treat mental illness differently from other illnesses when we need to be talking about it the same way we talk about cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes,” said Tanya Karapurkar Bhasin, a Norfolk School Board member and part of the Mentally Healthy Norfolk organizing committee. “WE can do something about this but WE ALL need to commit to it through our everyday actions. It is going to require a cultural shift, far beyond awareness, however, without awareness we will not get there. It is my hope that Mentally Healthy Norfolk Month continues to raise the level of awareness and educates Norfolk’s citizens and youth about suicide prevention and the importance of mental health wellness.”
A central aspect of Mentally Healthy Norfolk is the Talk About it Norfolk campaign, a video and print series where Norfolk community leaders — including Mayor Kenny Alexander, Sheriff Joe Baron, and Congressman Scott Taylor — bravely share their personal stories of how mental illness has impacted their lives.
“Throughout these wars I have lost a lot of friends,” said Congressman Taylor. “The feelings that I was feeling personally, I didn’t realize if it was depression or not — but I definitely could feel that.”
The research shows that suicide is preventable, if we work together. Let’s talk about it, Norfolk.