KENT COUNTY, Mich. — At a time when many are facing mental health struggles due to the coronavirus pandemic, September marks National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.
FOX 17 spoke with Vonnie Woodrick, founder of i understand, about the topic Monday.
Woodrick began the non-profit in 2014, more than a decade after losing her husband to depression. Her goal is to help others and change the conversation surrounding suicide.
"We support those who have lost a loved one to death by suicide or struggle with a mental health illness," explained Woodrick. "Stigma is the number one reason why people don't reach out for help. They're afraid of what other people are going to think."
And in 2020- there are many stressors that people are facing that could lead to mental health struggles.
"Kids are going back to school, bullying," said Woodrick. "Financial loss, job loss, heartbreak, you know so many relationships are changing, having to be at home. All of those things cause pain."
Woodrick added pain is what causes suicide.
"Pain is the common denominator of all suicides, and we don't talk about it like that. You do not have to have a mental health diagnosis to suffer from anxiety, depression, or those suicidal thoughts and actions."
At a time when many of us are staying in more to avoid the virus and social distancing, it's more important than ever to check on friends and family. Woodrick said there are many signs to watch for that could indicate they need help.
"If you're noticing irritability, if you're noticing change in behavior, if somebody is a little bit more quiet or maybe defiant, those are signs," she said. "If someone is maybe not showing up on time, or not showing up, those are all signs. It takes one person to understand/ Will you be that one? Let them know that you will be the one for them if needed. That is so important."
Woodrick said it's also important to offer support to those grieving loved ones.
"So often when it comes to suicide, people don't want to talk about it, they don't want to bring it up," she explained. "They have fear that maybe they're going to say the wrong thing. But we want to hear their names. That's probably the most important thing that I could offer for anyone, is to share a story, share a memory, say their name."
Woodrick released a book Monday titled "I Understand: Pain, Love and Healing after Suicide". It's available on Amazon.
In observance of National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Day on Sept. 10, i understand plans to hold a Pink Heart Day drive-thru fundraiser at Frederik Meijer Gardens.
If you or someone you know is struggling, help is available 24/7 via the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-TALK (8255).