Over the last few weeks, I have been hearing a lot about the 9-8-8 service. 9-8-8 is a suicide and crisis lifeline. For those unfamiliar with the service, dialing 988 on the telephone will connect those in crisis to a trained professional who can help. This is a wonderful service—and it happens to be on my mind this month as it’s Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

As I was preparing to write this article, I was scrolling through some statistics online. According to the CDC, nearly “12.2 million people in the United States seriously contemplated suicide in 2020.” This statistic stopped me in my tracks as I was able to look beyond a number and see individual lives. That’s 12.2 million people who are fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Regardless of their title, someone out there loved and cared at some point in time for each one of those 12.2 million individuals.

Now more than ever we must listen to what others are telling us—not only in their words but in their actions. We are a society built greatly on technology—a society that tends to prefer text messages over face-to-face interactions.

A lot of communication falls between the cracks in such modes of communication, and we might miss something that could save another person’s life. We never want to live with regret wondering what the outcome could have been if only we had listened.

We should all listen — and be knowledgeable about the signs of suicidal ideation. There are resources that offer such education. One resource is the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH). NIH offers a helpful web-based resource at https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/warning-signs-of-suicide.

We must also be aware of our own mental health and what our minds and bodies are trying to tell us.

This requires us to reflect, be honest with ourselves, and acknowledge when we are in crisis and need assistance. Some things we cannot do on our own. That’s why resources like 9-8-8 are out there.

As we continue throughout the month of September and beyond, may we stop and listen to what is being said—or, in some cases, not being said. In all things let us be kind and attentive.

For more information about 9-8-8, visit https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/988.

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