September is National Suicide Prevention Month. This month is recognized by many mental health advocates, organizations, survivors, and community members to unite and promote suicide prevention and awareness. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10-34. September is designated the month to share resources and educate individuals, friends, and families to shed light on this critical public health issue.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., and the overall suicide rate has increased by 31% since 2001. Furthermore, more than twice as many people die from suicide as from homicide. From 1999 to 2016, rates of suicide rose in nearly every state, and Texas experienced an 18.9 percent increase during that period. Due to these alarming statistics it is important to understand the issues concerning suicide and mental health, to take part in suicide prevention, and to change the conversation around suicide.

Although it is hard to predict a suicide attempt, knowing warning signs can help. The concern expressed by friends, parents, and family members can make a difference to someone who is struggling with suicide. New behavior such as increased alcohol use and drug use, aggressive behavior, withdrawal from friends and family, dramatic mood swings, and impulsive or reckless behavior can be a few warning signs. However, by starting the conversation, providing support, and helping those who need it, we can save lives and prevent suicides.

In the 86th legislative session, I authored HCR 137 which designated September as Suicide Prevention Month in the State of Texas. The Coastal Bend took the lead in realizing that suicide exacts a heavy toll on our state, leaving too many people to cope with the sudden loss of someone they hold dear. A greater awareness of suicide warning signs and intervention strategies can play an important role in reducing the number of these senseless tragedies.

To learn more about Suicide Prevention Month and the significance of this awareness month, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The Lifeline can also be contacted at 1-800-273-8255, which provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, or prevention and crisis resources. Additional information about risk factors and prevention information is also available by visiting the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

If you would like to review more about the legislature, please visit the Texas Legislature Online. If you have questions regarding any of the information mentioned in this week’s article, please do not hesitate to call my Capitol or District Office. As always, my offices are available at any time to assist with questions, concerns or comments (Capitol Office, 512-463-0672; District Office; 361-949-4603).

– State Representative Todd Hunter, District 32

Rep. Hunter represents Nueces County (Part). He can be contacted at todd.hunter@house.state.tx.us or at 512-463-0672.