CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. – Brianna ‘Bri’ Hurst would have turned 20 on Oct. 27.
Bri’s mother, Tracey Linkous, said she loved music, cats and had a great sense of humor.
“She was very kind,” said Linkous.
In April 2018, Bri took her own life. She was just 16 years old.
“She was my baby girl,” said Linkous. “I will miss her every minute of every day for the rest of my life.
To honor Bri, Linkous made it her mission to raise awareness for suicide prevention and destigmatize mental illness.
“I just really want to change how people view mental illness. I don’t feel like that until we reach a point where it’s treated the same as other diseases and other illnesses, that people are going to feel comfortable reaching out to get help.”
September 5 through 11 marks National Suicide Prevention Week, and Sheila Lythgoe with Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare wants people to seek help if they’re struggling.
“Suicide is preventable and it can affect anybody,” said Lythgoe.
Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Lythgoe said it’s too soon to tell if the pandemic impacted suicide rates because of a lag in the data, but she said more people are asking for help. Calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline spiked during the pandemic.
A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released this summer shows that mental health-related emergency department visits jumped 31% from 2019 to 2020 for teens ages 12-17. The CDC also found that suicide risk factors increased during the pandemic, such as anxiety, depression and substance use.
Lythgoe is asking everyone to look out for warning signs: withdrawal, isolation, talk/plans of suicide. She also said that people should not be afraid to talk about suicide with their loved ones.
“I think there’s a stigma behind, ‘If we talk about it, that’s going to put the idea in someone’s head,’ and that’s not true. I mean, if someone’s struggling, those thoughts are already there and talking with them is going to help,” said Lythgoe.
Linkous wants anyone going through a hard time to know: “No matter how dark it might feel right now, that there is hope. Reach out for help because you would be so very missed.”