(WFXR) — September is Suicide Prevention Month, which is why WFXR News spoke with Virginia mental health professionals about what signs to look out for, as well as how you can help someone who may be struggling.
Mariah Waller is a resident in counseling at Kairos Counseling Center in Lynchburg. If you are concerned about someone’s mental health, she recommends watching out for isolation, donation of their belongings, and direct requests for help.
According to Dr. Mike Takacs — the clinical director at Kairos Counseling Center — people who are struggling may just not seem like themselves.
“Hopelessness is a huge thing, just seeing them change who they typically are,” Takacs explained. “I think people closest to them would notice they just don’t seem like the same person they’ve been.”
Both Waller and Takacs say there are resources available for those struggling.
For example, a new 988 suicide and mental health crisis lifeline has been created for those who need help, in addition to services throughout the community. If you don’t know where to start, Takacs recommends calling a local counseling center.
“You can always call them if you’re concerned about a family member or friend or something and just say, ‘Here’s where I’m at with this person and I don’t know what to do. Can I get a little bit of guidance?’ And they’ll be able to give you some form of instructions,” said Takacs.
Takacs says the most difficult step in beginning a mental health journey is often making that first appointment. He adds that there are a multitude of services ranging in costs, including some that are free.
Meanwhile, Waller reminds community members that even if you’re not sure how to help, sometimes it’s as simple as just being a friend.
“You can just say, ‘Hey, how are you? What’s going on? Give me some updates,'” Waller recommended. “Or reach out for that coffee date or things like that because that can just be a huge thing when it comes to ‘How do I make sure everyone around me is doing well and I’m also doing well.'”
For people looking to get more involved in supporting those struggling with mental health, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is hosting an Out of the Darkness Community Walk at Rivermont Park in Lynchburg on Oct. 1.
In addition, the Suicide Prevention Council of Roanoke Valley is holding free training events all month long to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. You can also learn about prevention measures and warning signs.
If you or someone you know needs help, you can call the mental health crisis line at 988,