LCHM Fall 2017 - 11

L C M E D S O C .O R G

90% of those who take their lives by suicide have a mental illness diagnosis.
Alarmingly, rates of suicide, particularly among children and young adults,
have risen dramatically over the past decade. According to the CDC, suicide
is the second leading cause of death among 10- to 24-year-olds. The myth
that talking about suicide with someone who has suicidal ideation will
cause them to take their life is not true. Research demonstrates the opposite,
that in fact, bringing this topic out in the open can prevent someone
from taking their life by suicide through support and again, by assisting
and encouraging them to get professional treatment. Approaching this
in a non-threatening way can be literally life-saving. The Greater Lehigh
Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, https://afsp.
org/chapter/afsp-greater-lehigh-valley-pennsylvania/, or the National Suicide
Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 offer other resources.

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Avoid use of opioids for self-medication. Although not widely covered in
the media, there is a distinct connection between opioid abuse and mental
health issues. Results from a recent National Institutes of Health study
showed that, in the past year, 6.3% of adults not diagnosed with mental
illness had a substance abuse disorder while 18% of adults diagnosed with
mental illness also had a substance use disorder. Awareness and education
about mental health can lead to earlier intervention so that individuals
can get appropriate treatment. This can be especially important for young
people. About three quarters of cases of mental illness begin before age
24 and this age group can be particularly vulnerable to substance abuse.
Many resources are available for individuals living with mental health
issues, their family members, friends, neighbors, health care providers and
community members. Education and open communication are crucial
to removing the stigma around mental illness. NAMI Lehigh Valley
(NAMI LV) offers a free education program for individuals living with
mental health issues and another for family members. These once-a-week,
ten-week classes are evidence-based and use a combination of lecture,
interactive exercises, and structural group processes to teach participants
about mental health issues and how to facilitate recovery. NAMI LV's
peer and family support groups meet monthly, providing opportunities
for sharing experiences, challenges and successes with others in a positive,
supportive setting. NAMI LV offers speakers on a wide range of mental
health issues who can present to high schools and colleges, workplaces,
faith communities, service and community groups. On-line resources are
available through our website at For more information,
please contact us at 610-882-2102 or
Getting rid of the stigma surrounding mental illness is not a simple task
but it is an important one. It is only fair to people living with mental illness
- who come from every age, race, gender, educational or socio-economic
level - that we eliminate negative stereotypes and language, celebrate
their contributions to society, and have open, positive, and supportive
conversations about mental issues.
Margaret Murphy is director of NAMI Lehigh Valley, the local affiliate of the National Alliance
on Mental Illness, an association of families, persons with mental illness, mental health professionals
and other community members dedicated to providing hope and support for individuals dealing
with the effects of serious and persistent mental illness.

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FALL 2017 | Lehigh County Health & Medicine 11

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