Certain months are dedicated to awareness, appreciation or prevention. As we slip into the fall and the weather gets slightly cooler, we commemorate September as Suicide Prevention Month. We remember those who took their lives, individuals who are struggling and recognize others who make an impact.
Declared in September 2008 as National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, we must understand the well-being of our overall physical and mental health. As per the CDC, in 2022, there were 49,449 self-inflicted deaths in the United States alone. Of those numbers, 39,255 were male, while 10,194 were female, with ages ranging from 25 to 44 being the highest in deaths.
There are several reasons why people choose to end their lives. Some choices include bullying, shaming or humiliation, financial problems, job loss, a break-up, academic failure, depression and medication intake. Actress and artist Kathrina Miccio recalls her longtime friend, stand-up comedian and actor Richard Jeni, who took his life on March 10, 2007. Jeni was a Brooklyn native who appeared on shows such as The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and in character parts in films such as The Mask with Jim Carrey. According to the coroner’s office, Jeni was consuming anti-depressants along with a sleeping aid.
Miccio told the Canarsie Courier, “Knowing Richard for over 20 years, I confronted him about the new anti-depressant he was taking along with the sleeping aid, Ambien. I was concerned about the paranoia I observed.” Psychologist Dr. Kymberli Boynton, Psy.D / MA. Ed / LMFT, with over 15 years in the mental health field, stressed the importance of patients revealing to their doctors what medications they are taking. She explained, “Patients who take narcotics that cause drowsiness, you do not want to take them while you are alone. Medical management is critical, and when you’re adding to the list of prescriptions, be sure to let your doctors know what you are taking so they can see how it will interact, especially if you are seeing several doctors.”
Although we can be shocked when we hear of a neighbor, family or friend who has taken their life, there are some signs that we can look out for, such as verbalizing their desire to self-harm or expressing that they are a burden to others and feeling hopeless, and not having a way out, according to Dr. Boynton. Other red flags to be aware of are social isolation, such as family and friend participation, personal hygiene, mood swings and substance abuse. So what can we do when we suspect our loved one exhibiting stoic behavior? Dr. Boynton recommends taking the person seriously when speaking of hurting themselves. “Even if they’ve cried wolf a million times, you never know if it’s that one time that can make a difference.” She also advises that the person has a solid support system.
Help is always at your fingertips! In Canarsie, Simone Muschett, LMSW, Founder and CEO of Resilient Young Minds, Inc. (RYM), started her organization in July 2017. At the time, she was an educator and noticed her students were struggling with issues at home that made it difficult to concentrate at school. Having the same issues as an adolescent, Muschett wanted to help the community and create a safe space to talk about how problems impact an individual but mostly find solutions. A Licensed Master Social Worker for over six years, Muschett formed a Suicide Awareness Program within RYM. Muschett promotes healthy ways throughout her program to help with activities such as yoga art therapy and teaches healthy habits to help with anxiety and depression.
On Saturday, September 16th, at Canarsie Park on a beautiful sunny day, Muschett, RYM Vice President Dr. Magalie Alexis and volunteers facilitated a Suicide Awareness Walk and safe space for those who wanted to share their stories. Muschett addressed the group about her organization, commended those who made it to the gathering and sang a song to show that being vulnerable is okay. It’s essential to the team that everyone participates. Muschett explained, “We want to be able to share our stories so others feel comfortable sharing their trauma, creating togetherness, connecting and having a sense of belonging.”
East New York resident and social media influencer Lola Pierre, a survivor who lost her best friend to suicide last year, told the Canarsie Courier, “It’s okay not to be okay, but it’s not okay to stop trying, to stop living, to stop healing.” Pierre attributes her father for motivating her every day. She explained, “While acting upon hurting yourself, you don’t think about how it’s going to affect your loved ones.” Pierre said she does not want her father to grieve because she knows how it feels to mourn a loved one. She won Ms. Caribbean Full Figured USA last year, and her goal is to spread the word that no one is ever alone with what they are going through.
The next focus of the Suicide Awareness Program within RYM will be on men and providing positive ways to help them.
RYM is always looking for volunteers, sponsors and donations. To learn more, visit their Instagram rym_inc or email them at email@example.com.
If you or know of someone who wants to hurt themselves, please call 988 immediately.