September is Suicide Prevention Month

Updated: Sep 2, 2020

Published in Middlebury Neighbors - September 2020 Issue

Written by Dr. Christopher Young, MD | Medical Director for Wellmore Behavioral Health

I remember it like it was yesterday. A couple of minutes into my first overnight call as an intern in internal medicine, my first page came. At the time, AIDS was raging, there were no iPhones or Google and I was covering an HIV unit.

I was frozen, deer in headlights paralyzed. Mr. J had a low-grade fever. I started rifling through my on-call pocket manuals that I had jammed into my new white coat, looking for the answer as to what to do. The nurse who called me, aware it was my first night, was patient, calm, and caring.

After waiting on the phone, more than an appropriate amount of time for me to respond, she offered “would you like me to give him a little Tylenol?”. Startled out of my paralysis, I remember thinking, ‘that’s genius’ and said “thank you”.

I went on to learn over that difficult year that compassion, in combination with knowledge and experience would be the most effective way to navigate the medical complexities of the day.

These too are daunting times. The challenges our society faces today, like that intern years ago, are frankly overwhelming. This year, suicide prevention month comes on top of an escalating opioid epidemic and in the midst of an infectious pandemic, where hundreds of thousands have already lost their lives.

The toll on mental health has been enormous. During the pandemic, rates of depressive symptoms have soared along with alcohol sales, domestic violence, stress, anxiety and other conditions associated with depression and suicide.