September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, a time to shed light on a topic that is too often stigmatized. According to the National Institute for Mental Health, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. While it may be difficult to discuss, it is important to remember that with compassion and the proper support, suicide is preventable. We reached out to two local nonprofits dedicated to providing access to mental health services to discuss the work they do and the issues they’re facing.
provident behavioral health
Provident Behavioral Health is dedicated to making quality behavioral health services accessible to all. Associate director of counseling Brianna Massey notes that suicide prevention is a cause that should be important to the state of Missouri as a whole. “Every state is given a rank for its suicide rate, with 50 being highest,” she explains. “Missouri ranks 39th and has a higher suicide rate than the national average. Statistics show that people in rural areas are more at risk, which is likely because they encounter more barriers to mental health services.”
Provident’s crisis intervention measures include its 24/7 hotline (314.647.4357). “We’re part of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s network of crisis centers, and we answer around 4,000 calls a month from people actively contemplating suicide,” Massey notes. “The hotline is an important tool for reaching people who wish to remain anonymous and may not otherwise receive services.” Provident also offers counseling and psychiatric services, creating a comprehensive approach to mental health.
During the pandemic, Massey says the nonprofit’s services have seen an increase in demand. “People are more stressed and feeling lonely, so they may be struggling with anxiety and depression,” she notes. “We’re seeing that more people are opting not to discontinue therapy, so our counselors are starting to develop waitlists.” Provident is hiring more staff to meet the increased demand, and at its Access Center in downtown St. Louis, people can schedule appointments on short notice with student therapists for $5 a session.
“We never want to turn anyone away,” Massey says. “If someone reaches out, we’re going to do our best to help them access the support they need.”
“Access to mental health care is truly a matter of life and death,” says Eve Kincaid, a community support supervisor at Independence Center. “It’s estimated that more than 12 million people have serious suicidal thoughts, and there are around 1 million suicide attempts annually in the U.S, but the proper support and treatment can save lives.” Independence Center works to provide a full spectrum of services to adults with severe and persistent mental illness using a clubhouse model, a type of psychosocial rehabilitation that focuses on strengthening an individual’s abilities.
The organization’s services include employment programs; organized community support; psychiatric care and counseling in partnership with Washington University; housing, including 24-hour monitored care; and health care that focuses on all dimensions of wellness. “We offer a holistic approach to improve people’s quality of life,” Kincaid explains. “Mental health and suicide prevention cannot be handled in a vacuum. If you just focus on one facet of the issue, such as access to medication, suicidal ideation can reoccur due to other factors and stressors.”
Independence Center is working with the Zero Suicide initiative, a program dedicated to transforming health and behavioral health care systems to move toward safer suicide care. “We’re implementing practices with the aspirational goal of making suicide an event that never occurs in our community,” Kincaid says. This month, the nonprofit also will release an episode of its mental health podcast, “Let’s Rethink This,” on suicide prevention. To listen to the podcast and get more information about Independence Center, visit independencecenter.org.
For immediate assistance with suicidal thoughts, you can reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.TALK (8255) or text HOME to 741741 to connect with the Crisis Text Line from anywhere in the U.S.