September is Suicide Awareness Month, with Sept. 6-12 designated as National Suicide Awareness Week. And this year it’s more important than ever.
The United States’ overall suicide rate is on the rise; according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, COVID-19 is making mental health issues more prevalent. In fact, during the week of June 24, younger adults in the United States reported having experienced disproportionately worse mental health outcomes, increased substance use, and elevated suicidal ideation because of COVID-19, according to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
According to Suzie Bartel, founder and board chair of the Ryan Bartel Foundation, a nonprofit focused on youth suicide prevention, “we should be focused on suicide awareness every month of the year.”
That includes being alert and aware of how our teens, peers, and friends deal with stressors.
“September should not be the only time we all are working hard to help others in our community who may be suffering,” Bartel said. “Young people, in particular, need our support because suicide is now the second leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 34. We need to ensure young people know that it’s OK to talk about mental health and teach them it’s OK to ask for help. We must continue to find ways to build their resilience so they don’t want to end their lives and reach those who have suicidal thoughts to tell them they are not alone, there is always help.”
The Ryan Bartel Foundation was built on the basic principle that everyone deserves acceptance and that the community needs to provide resources and hope for youth who struggle with self-esteem and motivation to live. It relies on community donations and raises funds from events, such as the upcoming We’re All Human 5K Color Run, which will be virtual this year.
“This is our fifth year hosting the Color Run, an event that so many young people look forward to every fall,” Bartel said. “Like so many other activities, we are going virtual this year. We are encouraging all of our participants to make their own Color Run, perhaps with their own ‘pods’ or ‘bubbles’ of friends and families, and make it as fun as possible.”
According to Bartel, participants may run, walk, cycle, or do any physical activity anywhere and anytime to complete their 5K during Oct. 5-11. Participants will receive color packets so friends and family can shower them as they complete their personal 5K.
“The proceeds of all of our fundraising activities go toward teen suicide prevention programs, such as Sources of Strength, and new virtual programs like FORTitude Parental Panels and FORTitude Teen Meet-ups and we have even more programs coming,” Bartel said. “We have been focused on ensuring that Loudoun families can still access our programs, even when they’re online to help them navigate COVID and a very different school year.”
We’re All Human Virtual 5K Color Run registration is open until Oct 1, and participants receive a Color Run T-shirt and neck gaiter, and three powder packets to throw on yourself and family/friends. Register by Sept. 15 to guarantee your T-shirt size. Race packets will be available for pick up the weekend of Oct. 3, or participants can opt to have them delivered by mail.
The race also includes a school team challenge for the Color Running Man trophy based on the team with most participants, Bartel said. Simpson Middle School is the current trophy holder, and the school has already formed a team and is in the lead to defend it in this year’s run.
Sponsorships are still available and the deadline for sponsor logos to be included in race materials is Sept. 15.
Learn more at ryanbartelfoundation.org.