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U.S suicides at record high, how community can help

News Photo by Mike Gonzalez Anna Krueger, assistant clinical director and therapist at Unity Counseling in Alpena, sits on Wednesday at her usual spot during appointments at her office on North 1st Avenue.

ALPENA –The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Nov. 29 that the U.S. suicide numbers in 2022 are at a record high of 49,449, a record previously held by 2018’s 48,344. This is the highest number ever recorded in the U.S.

The CDC also reports that the rate of suicides per 100,000 increased from 14.1 in 2021 to 14.3 in 2022, which is the highest rate since 1941. According to the Library of Congress, this was the same year that the United States declared war on Japan during World War II.

Anna Krueger, assistant clinical director and therapist at Unity Counseling in Alpena, said some of these inclines may come from a shortage of mental health workers and a readjusting world after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are economic struggles happening,” Krueger said. “Things are costing more due to inflation. Lack of housing or affordable housing is contributing to homelessness. There is limited access to clinics because of the shortage of mental health practitioners and clients are not being seen as often as they should.”

Krueger said that asking if someone needs help, or just being there for someone with suicidal thoughts or intentions, can be beneficial.

Often, people with those feelings will verbalize feeling unbearable pain, guilt, shame, anger, hopelessness, and more.

Krueger also said that people with thoughts of suicide might have changes in mood or behavior such as giving away prized possessions, showing recklessness, showing an increase in alcohol or drug use, and more.

“I encourage anyone who is having thoughts to seek help with a therapist,” Krueger said. “They are available virtually, if you are having difficulty finding one in person, which can eliminate some barriers. At the very least, reach out and talk to a friend or trusting individual — talking always helps. It is a common misconception that talking about suicide causes it.”

According to Krueger, taking time for self-care and doing things you enjoy can lift someone’s mood, along with communicating honestly with an unbiased person.

She also said maintaining health, like taking medication, getting appropriate amounts of sleep, and attending doctor appointments, is very important.

Krueger said that a great way for the Northeast community to help prevent suicides, people should be more accepting of others and to acknowledge being different is okay.

“Incorporate healthy views on the idea that it’s okay to not be okay — life is hard,” Krueger said. “Change the social norms that it’s ok to work on being mentally healthy and erase the stigma of needing mental health services. Work on being more tolerant and kind. You never know what someone else is experiencing.”

Krueger said anyone interested in setting up appointments can send an email to the Unity Counseling email, intake@unitycounseling.com, or by calling the number 989-439-8180.

If you are feeling suicidal or need someone to talk to, you can call or text the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.

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