September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

Treatment and Recovery can save lives

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month—a time to share resources and stories to shed light on this highly taboo and stigmatized topic. We use this month to reach out to those affected by suicide, raise awareness and connect individuals with suicidal ideation to treatment services. It is also important to ensure individuals, friends, and families have access to the resources they need to discuss suicide prevention.

Suicidal thoughts, much like mental health conditions, can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background. In fact, suicide is often the result of an untreated mental health condition. Suicidal thoughts, although common, should not be considered normal and often indicate more serious issues.

Last year, nearly 45,000 people died by suicide. They leave behind friends and family members to navigate the tragedy of loss. In many cases, friends and families affected by a suicide loss—often called suicide loss survivors—are left with feelings of shame and stigma preventing them from talking openly.

Knowing the Warning Signs

  • Threats or comments about killing themselves, also known as suicidal ideation, can begin with seemingly harmless thoughts like “I wish I wasn’t here” but can become more overt and dangerous
  • Increased alcohol and drug use
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Social withdrawal from friends, family and the community
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Talking, writing or thinking about death
  • Impulsive or reckless behavior

Recognizing Imminent Danger

Any person exhibiting these behaviors should get care immediately:

  • Putting their affairs in order and giving away their possessions
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family
  • Mood shifts from despair to calm
  • Planning, possibly by looking around to buy, steal or borrow the tools they need to complete suicide, such as a firearm or prescription medication

Preventing Suicide

It can be frightening and intimidating when a loved one reveals or shows signs of suicidal thoughts. However, not taking thoughts of suicide seriously can have a devastating outcome. If you think your friend or family member will hurt herself or someone else, call 911 immediately. There are a few ways to approach this situation.

  • Remove means such as guns, knives or stockpiled pills
  • Calmly ask simple and direct questions, such as “Can I help you call your psychiatrist?” rather than, “Would you rather I call your psychiatrist, your therapist or your case manager?”
  • Talk openly and honestly about suicide. Don’t be afraid to ask questions such as “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” or “Do you have a plan for how you would kill yourself?”
  • If there are multiple people, have one person speak at a time
  • Ask what you can do to help
  • Don’t argue, threaten or raise your voice
  • Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong
  • If your loved one asks for something, provide it, as long as the request is safe and reasonable
  • If you are nervous, try not to fidget or pace
  • If your loved one is having hallucinations or delusions, be gentle and sympathetic, but do not get in an argument about whether the delusions or hallucinations are real

What to do in a Crisis

If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call 911 immediately. If you are in crisis or are experiencing difficult or suicidal thoughts, call Partners anytime, every day at 1-888-235-HOPE (4673) or the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255). If you’re uncomfortable talking on the phone, you can also text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line. Also, learn how you and your family can be prepared for a crisis at Being Prepared for a Crisis

Enrollee Navigator – Advance Directives

You have the right to make instructions for your treatment in advance. These legal documents, called Advance Directives, have your choices if you can’t make decisions for yourself. There are three types of advance directives:

  • Psychiatric Advance Directives or the Advance Instruction for Mental Health Treatment
  • Health Care Power of Attorney
  • Living Will

Psychiatric Advance Directives, or the Advance Directive for Mental Health Treatment

A legal document with your instructions for the type of mental health treatment you want to receive if you are in a crisis and unable to make decisions for yourself. These instructions give information about:

  • What you think helps calm you
  • How you feel about seclusion or electric shock treatments
  • What medicines you do not want to take
  • Which doctor you want to be in charge of your treatment

Your service provider or care coordinator should be able to assist you in the development of this document.

You can find these forms at If you do not have internet access, please call 1-888-235-HOPE (4673) to request copies. State law,, allows you the right to make Advance Directives.

Find more information on Advance Directives on the North Carolina Division of Medical Assistance webpage: You can also find information in the article on Advance Directives at

Health Care Power of Attorney

Power of Attorney allows you to designate someone who can make decisions for you if you are unable to make your own choices about treatment.

Living Will

A Living Will is a document telling others you want to die a natural death if you are incurably sick and cannot receive nutrition or breathe on your own.

You must write and sign these documents while you are able to understand your condition and treatment choices and are able to make your wishes known. You must have two qualified people witness you signing your forms. You must have the Living Will and the Health Care Power of Attorney notarized.

What do I do with my Advance Directives?

You should keep a copy in a safe place and give copies to your family, your treatment team, your doctor, and the hospital where you are likely to receive treatment. You can also have your Advance Directives filed in a national database or registered with the North Carolina Advanced Health Care Directive Registry, which is part of the Department of the North Carolina Secretary of State ( There is a $10.00 fee to register an Advance Directive. The fee includes the registration, a revocation form, registration card, and password. You can use the revocation form at any time if you change your mind.

You have the right to file a grievance if you feel your Advance Directives are not being followed according to law. You can file a grievance with the Division of Health Service Regulation, Mental Health Licensure & Certification Section by calling 1-800-624-3004 or 919-855-4500.

How long do my Advance Directives stay active?

Your Advance Directives are active until you cancel them. You may cancel or change them at any time. If you cancel or change your Advance Directives, be sure to tell anyone who has a copy.

Recovery Month Events

In recognition of September as National Recovery Month, Partners and many local agencies and community organizations are sponsoring events this month. These events serve to remind us many deaths from overdose and suicide are preventable through treatment. They also serve to celebrate the hope of recovery and those in recovery.

Lastly, these events allow us to remember those who we’ve lost to substance use and mental illness:

3rd Annual Burke Rally for Recovery

Join the Burke Substance Abuse Network to celebrate and spread the message that people do achieve sustained recovery from mental health concerns, alcohol, drugs, and other life challenges. The 3rd annual rally features: Speakers, live music, free food, a Recovery Wall,

Games, and more! All are welcome on Saturday, September 15, 2018, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., at the Morganton Historic Courthouse Square, 102 East Union St., Morganton, NC.

Yadkin County Hope Fest for Recovery

Help spread the word that through treatment, recovery from mental illness and substance use disorder is possible. Come out to Lila Swaim Park, 121 Delos Martin Dr., Jonesville, NC, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., on Saturday, September 15, 2018, and enjoy entertainment, food, and activities to celebrate those in recovery.

Gaston County Recovery Month Celebration and Candlelight Vigil

You are invited to celebrate recovery through treatment and services and hold a vigil for those who we’ve lost to behavioral health problems. The event is on Friday, September 28, 2018, from 6-9:30 p.m., at Gaston Pavilion, 111 N. South St., Gastonia, NC.

Iredell County Walk for Recovery

Celebrate your Recovery Month by attending the Family Walk on Friday, September 28, 2018, from 5-8:30 p.m., at ESC Park, 338 North Ave., Troutman, NC, to honor those in Recovery and remember those who have passed away. The event includes activities for all ages, giveaways, music/DJ, free food, storytellers, and a candlelight closing ceremony.

Catawba County Recovery Rally

Help us commemorate recovery in Catawba County on Saturday, September 29, 2018, from 1-3 p.m., 110 2nd St. Place SE, Hickory, NC. Come and see recovery is possible for anyone and there is hope and healing for people living with substance use and mental disorders. This is a free event, which includes speakers, fellowship, information, entertainment, food, and empowerment.

In the Community 

Burke County Communities Project: Facing Addiction with NCADD

Addiction is a national emergency and there is a need to face the reality and develop responses on a community level. “It’s time to engage in a massive community organizing effort, town by town, city by city.” Community organizing is defined in the Oxford Living Dictionary as, “the coordination of cooperative efforts and campaigning carried out by local residents to promote the interests of their community.” The Communities Project supports this concept through the primary aim of bringing a community organizing framework into communities to push for local policy change on addiction issues.

Burke County was selected as one of the 25 communities to implement the program and is the only community selected in NC. Facing Addiction with NCADD’s Communities Project is ideal for the needs of Burke County and can truly make a difference in the lives of every resident. Substance use/misuse leaves no one untouched and our goal is to create responses and develop solutions to the greatest substance use/misuse needs in our community. We have the desire, we have the people, we have the agency and community leader support, now we need to grow the structure and continue to innovate in ways that best fit Burke County.

Come to the first meeting on Saturday, September 22, 2018, from 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., at Foothills Higher Education Center – Room 147, 2128 S. Sterling St., Morganton, NC. Lunch is provided.

Bring a friend, your family, your colleagues…speak up and speak out about your ideas, concerns, and desires for the community you call “home.” To sign up for the September 22, 2018 Burke County Communities Project, please complete the online RSVP form. For more information, email Kim James at

Special Needs Planning 101: Including New Able Act Details

Life Enrichment Center is sponsoring this Educational Experience on Special Needs Planning on Thursday, September 13, 2018, from 6-8 p.m., at Life Enrichment Center, 222 Kings Mountain Blvd., Kings Mountain, NC. Participants will learn about government benefits, SSI and Medicaid, the ABLE Act, future caregiving, special needs trust, communication techniques, guardianship, defining your child’s lifetime needs, and proactive tax strategies. Please call Debbie Vaughan at 704-739-4858 for a reservation.

Integrated Care of Greater Hickory is Expanding Services

Integrated Care of Greater Hickory is now offering Substance Abuse Intensive Outpatient Program (SAIOP), Substance Abuse Comprehensive Outpatient Treatment (SACOT), and Medication-assisted treatment (MAT). They are also offering these enhanced services, and basic services, in Lincolnton, NC. For more informaiton, call 828-322-5915 or email

Behavioral Health Focus is published on the first and third Tuesday of each month and is intended to be a source of information for those working or interacting with behavioral health care in Burke, Catawba, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Surry and Yadkin Counties. If you would like to contribute, contact Jeff Brucato at 704-884-2564 or Items should be submitted by Wednesday at 3 p.m. for the next week’s issue.

Volume 4 – Issue 4
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