Over 38,000 Americans die by suicide each year. Many of us can likely think of a time when we found out a loved one, neighbor, community or family member passed away; but the troubling thing with suicide is it that too often, it seems to blindside us. In the wake of death – we are left wondering why unable to process the pain we’re experiencing.

“I had no idea they were struggling.”

“They were so happy, and seemed to have everything.”

“How did we miss the signs?”

We hear it all – the stories of people who, on the outside, were successful, athletic, beautiful, smart, funny, creative. Mental health is as important as physical health, but it can too easily be hidden– you can’t always see what someone is experiencing. While half of individuals who die by suicide have a diagnosed mental health condition, research shows that 90% have experienced symptoms.

Breaking the stigma that surrounds both suicide and mental health is everyone’s job.

David Araujo
PC: Michael Cohen

We connected with our Island Intervention Center Director, David Araujo, to learn more about how we can all play a role in breaking the stigma, and what to do if you or a friend are struggling.

The Island Intervention Center provides outreach and urgent care services, brief interventions, assessments and immediate access to services for both mental health and substance use disorders.

Q:  Can you explain the relationship between the Island Intervention Center and our Emergency Services hotline? How do the two work in conjunction?

A: Depends on the situation. If someone called the Emergency Services line for themselves or on behalf of a loved one the clinician on-call would connect with me (David), we’d look back at their history, presenting symptoms and determine the best place for them to go for an intervention.

If a person that isn’t chronically ill, has no history of hospitalizations or plan to self-harm, we’d divert them to the Intervention Center. From there, we provide wrap-around services and help figure out the best next steps.

L to R: Jennifer Vogel, Brumelha Magri, David Aarujo
PC: Gabrielle Mannino/MV Times

We also work in collaboration with the hospital. If someone is in crisis at the hospital, the hospital calls our Emergency Services team and within an hour someone is there to do an evaluation. 

We’re at the hospital to act as consultants, but the doctor on call determines the status of the patient. After they are discharged we would follow up to provide wrap-around services. These services could include setting them up with a therapist, a counselor at CONNECT to End Violence, insurance through Vineyard Health Care Access or any other resources helpful to their situation.

Q: What’s one thing you would tell someone who might be on the fence of seeking help?

A:  Err on the cautious side. Don’t put things off because you never know if things will get better or worse.

Q: What are some warning signs that people should be aware of?

A:  Increased depression, feeling like a burden and being isolated, extreme mood swings, increased anxiety, increased substance use and irrational thoughts including both suicidal or thoughts of self-harm.

Learn more about suicide warning signs here.

Q:  How can we change the way we talk about both suicide and mental health?

A:  Address it head-on. Suicide is the 10th highest risk-factor for death in the United States – above certain medical diseases and we need to face it head-on.  Everyone should be proactive and not reactive in terms of both discussing and approaching mental health and suicide.

Q: Last year’s Darkness into Vineyard Light was a huge success, can you speak about this year’s event?

A: The date will be Saturday, September 28th with a rain date of Sunday 29th, at Bend in the Road Beach. Registration will begin at 4:30 AM and this year’s proceeds benefit National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Cape and the Islands.

We want this to be a yearly process where we continue to include and have more people show up to support the cause. Last year over 250 people came out to support the cause.

Registration is open for this year’s walk on the NAMI website.

Q: Any other events coming up?

A: We’re organizing a training on Helping to Prevent Suicide in Elders on September 11th from 9:00am-4:30 pm at the Bowl and Board in Vineyard Haven. It is open to anyone who works with the elder population – therapists, individuals who work at our local Councils on Aging, personal that transport seniors etc. The goal is to give people more information and knowledge on how they can make more informed decisions and help prevent suicide among seniors.

If you or a loved one are struggling, MV Community Services Emergency Services are available 24/7 at 508-693-0032.

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