According to The National Alliance on Mental Illness, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., and the second leading cause of death for those ages 10-34.

In the Baton Rouge area, suicides dropped slightly from 58 in 2017 to 54 in 2018, but, in a troubling turn, suicides among African-American men increased significantly, from a baseline of two or three in past years to 14 in 2018.

"This is a seven-fold increase. This is an incredibly alarming statistic," East Baton Rouge coroner Dr. Beau Clark said earlier this year. "I have reached out to suicide experts and this trend is happening nationwide."

Rise in suicides among African-American males 'incredibly alarming,' EBR coroner says

This week is National Suicide Prevention Week, an annual national campaign to bring awareness to the signs of suicide risk. The week, organized by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, also aims to break down the cultural stigma around discussing mental illness, to make mental health a priority.

One in 5 adults in the U.S. will experience mental illness in a year. Further, 1 in 25 adults each year grapple with serious mental illness that interferes with life activities. A national Mental Illness Awareness Week will also be held Oct. 6-12.

If suicide is something you struggle with or you're concerned someone you know, there are several resources, locally and nationally:

  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached by phone at 1-800-273-TALK (8255); online at suicidepreventionlifeline.org; and by texting HOME to 741741 (more information at crisistextline.org).
  • The Bridge Center, a Baton Rouge mental health services center, can be reached at (225) 387-6126 and online at brbridge.org.
  • THE PHONE Baton Rouge crisis hotline can be reached at (225) 924-3900. This is a 24-hour support line.
  • THE PHONE LSU crisis hotline can be reached at (225) 924-LSUI (5784). This is a 24-hour support line.
  • A hotline for kids, THE PHONE Kidline can be reached at 1 (800) 244-5373-6. This is a 24-hour support line.

Through Saturday, Sept. 14, members of the Baton Rouge health and wellness community are collaborating on events for National Suicide Prevention Week. Outdoor wellness group Yoga on the Lakes will host a series of yoga, meditation and mindfulness sessions at BREC's Milford Wampold Memorial Park, 901 Stanford Ave. Sessions start at 6:30 p.m. and are donation-based.

"So many of us find ourselves struggling with mental health," said Yoga on the Lakes organizer Sophia Gradishar. "This week Yoga on the Lakes encourages us all to celebrate National Suicide Awareness Week by joining together to care for our mind and body health with yoga, meditation and guest speakers."

The list of sessions can be found below.

Monday, Sept. 9: Gradishar will host a talk on using yoga for mind and body health; Pranic healer and meditation leader Pat Cole will host a 20-minute meditation and personal talk on the topic of suicide. And Sherrard Crespo, an outreach and traumatic loss coordinator, will speak.

Tuesday, Sept. 10: The Yoga Noir Project will host a talk on using yoga for mind and body health and will lead a guest vinyasa.

Wednesday, Sept. 11: The Yoga Noir Project will host a guest yoga vinyasa, followed by a free, guided 30-minute group meditation led by Bruce Q. Williams.

Friday, Sept. 13: Wellness coaches Victoria Schlumbrecht and Lee Ellen Hutchinson will host a talk on nutritional health, and Juli T., a Crisis Text Line counselor and owner of Reps and Recover, will talk on health and wellness as well as a personal experience.

"Events that bring awareness around the subject of suicide and how to prevent it is extremely relevant right now," said Nicole Scott, found of The Yoga Noir Project. "People need to know that it’s not only OK to talk about suicide, but it’s imperative to keep this conversation going if we want to decrease the number of suicides, which have been increasing annually, right here in Baton Rouge.”