is Recovery Month

To the editor:

September is Recovery Month. Recovery is defined as “a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives, and strive to reach their full potential.”

This year’s National Recovery Month theme is “Join the Voices for Recovery: Celebrating Connections.” While the physical distancing measures that have been implemented nationwide due to COVID-19 are important for reducing transmission of the virus, they create challenges for people in recovery because they may limit access to meetings of peer-support groups and other sources of social connection which are crucial for those in recovery from a mental illness or substance use disorder.

According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Heath, 47.6 million people, aged 18 or older, had a mental illness; 20.3 million people, aged 12 or older, had a substance use disorder; and 9.2 million adults, aged 18 or older, had both a substance use disorder and mental illness.

It is estimated that more than 90% of all people who die because of suicide have a significant mental illness at the time of their death. These illnesses are often undiagnosed, untreated or both. When both substance use and mental disorders are present, the risk for suicide is even greater. According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) Annual Summary of Vital Statistics, 521 people died of suicide in Kansas in 2019. Twenty-six (26) of those people lived in Pawnee’s service area.

KDHE has been awarded a $700,000 a year for five years grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) to implement “Zero Suicide in Health Systems.” This is a model built upon the idea that suicide deaths for individuals under the care of health and behavioral health systems are preventable. KDHE will work with key partners across the state, including the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas to implement this model.

If you or someone you care about is at risk of relapse or suicide, please get help immediately. Contact your school counselor, family physician, clergy, or mental health professional. If there is no one you can talk to, make a connection. Contact your local Pawnee office or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Mental illnesses and substance use disorders are treatable. Suicide is preventable. Recovery is possible.

Robbin Cole

Executive director, Pawnee Mental Health Services

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