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By Lauren Gallegos
In 2018, 48,344 Americans died by suicide—an average of 132 per day. It is the leading cause of death for teens nationwide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in a survey conducted this spring that one in four people, ages 18-25, reported seriously considering suicide in the past year.
We are currently in the midst of two pandemics: COVID-19 and the diseases of mental health and addiction. While we do not know how the coronavirus pandemic will affect suicide rates (already distressingly high), mental health experts point to several factors, including isolation and increased substance use, that could increase the risk for suicide.
What is important to know is that suicide is preventable. Both national and local organizations support prevention efforts.
One national organization, suicideispreventable.org suggests the following:
- Know the Signs: Most people who are considering suicide show some warning signs or signals of their intentions. Refer to the site above to learn about these warning signs and how to respond.
- Find the Words: If you are concerned about someone, ask them directly, “Are you planning to kill yourself?” This can be difficult to do, but being direct provides an opportunity for them to open up and talk about their distress.
- Reach Out: Crisis lines, such as 1.800.273.8255 (TALK), provide 24/7 support, as well as free and confidential assistance from trained counselors. You can also text HOME to 741741.
San Clemente resident Ali Borowsky founded “Find Your Anchor” (findyouranchor.us) based upon her idea that people need secure connections to keep them firmly planted in this world.
Borowsky experienced mental health treatment that felt sterile and wanted to create community resources that fostered organic support. She developed a program that curates prevention boxes filled with materials designed to inspire and offer support.
Borowsky states, “I really wanted something that spoke to the person holding the box. This movement in a lot of ways is a physical representation of me being fortunate enough to be in a better spot—the physical representation of being ‘anchored’ and wanting to pay that forward.”
Find Your Anchor does not presume to be the anchor, or have all the answers. Rather, it sets out to create a community of hope and support through blue boxes filled with meaningful activities and messages.
Borowsky says, “For those contemplating suicide, there is an overwhelming sense of loneliness and abandonment, despair, hopelessness. I wanted something specifically for them, a box full of ideas, support, and inspiration. I wanted those in need to open the box and think ‘someone cared enough to make this for me.’ ”
In honor of National Suicide Prevention Week, 1,000 Find Your Anchor boxes were sent out into the Orange County communities by the Orange County Health Care Agency. The Wellness & Prevention Center has partnered with Find Your Anchor to place additional boxes around San Clemente.
If you see a box and need it, take it, keep it for as long as you need and add your own anchors to the box, then leave it for the next person in need. Through this process, we can create a community anchored in care and support.
Lauren Gallegos, ACSW, is the Prevention Director at the Wellness & Prevention Center. She leads the Wellness & Prevention Coalition and cares deeply about the mental health of fellow community members. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.