BLACKSBURG (WSLS 10)-- Governor Terry McAuliffe has declared the week of September 5-11 as National Suicide Prevention Week in Virginia. It's a topic that can often be uncomfortable to talk about, but this year, to get the conversation going, local therapists are taking the discussion online.
The campaign, called #AskingSaves, will connect more than 50 therapists and crisis intervention experts in one place. Searching the hashtag on Twitter will link users with advice and other information on suicide prevention.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. For teens and young adults, those statistics are even more startling-- as suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 24.
Experts say it's not just young people, suicidal thoughts can affect anyone, regardless of age, race, gender or background and there are no universal symptoms. That's why it's important to look out for some of the common warning signs, like withdrawal from activities, appearing depressed and changes in sleep or appetite.
Throughout the month of September, organizations like New River Valley Community Services, are urging people to reach out to loved ones and ask if they're okay.
"Sometimes it takes practice and that's a little awkward," says Tony Smith, a prevention specialist with NRVCS. "We just encourage people to try it. Sometimes it's asking very specifically, 'Are you having thoughts of suicide?' And the first time someone does that, it can be scary. But sometimes it's just saying, 'Hey, are you okay?' or, 'Is there anything I can do to help you?'"
That's where the #AskingSaves campaign comes into play on this weekend, as the NRVCS asks everyone to reach out to a loved one and make sure they're okay. They're urging everyone write the hashtag on their hand and share the photo on social media-- that's your pledge that you will reach out and check on someone you may be worried about.
For more information and suicide prevention resources:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call 1-800-273-TALK-- a toll-free, 24-hour confidential crisis line available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress
Suicide.org or call 1-800-SUICIDE
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention-- One of the leading nonprofit organizations working to prevent suicide. You can find warning signs, personal stories from survivors and information for families
The Alliance of Hope for Suicide Survivors-- Resources for those who have lost a loved one to suicide
Live Through This-- Stories and portraits of suicide attempt survivors