Research Psychiatric Center therapist Justina Weber and recent patient graduate, Linda Clavijo.

Kansas City, MO—September is National Suicide Prevention Month and it’s important now, more than ever, to raise awareness of this often-taboo topic.

Research Psychiatric Center patient graduate Linda Clavijo felt the stigma her whole life and decided to tell her personal story to help others. “In my community we never talked about feelings or depression, so I internalized everything, until I thought I wanted to die,” she says.

Everyone around her “knew” she was happy and thriving. However, inside she was depressed and anxious, and the coping skills she used only hurt her more.

Clavijo’s family is originally from Bogota, Colombia, and growing up as the oldest child, she felt the pressure to be the strong one. “I thought I could never break down,” says Clavijo, who works full time while also training to become a fire fighter. “So, in addition to the stigma around Hispanic cultures, I felt like I couldn’t ask for help. I’ve learned so much after intensive therapy and am motivated to help others, so they know they are not alone. That they matter, and they deserve to have a trusted friend or resource to support them.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 45,000 lives were lost to suicide in 2020 alone.

In July, a new National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 9-8-8 — was activated to get those who need mental health assistance a quicker and easier way to find the help.

“The degree to which people underestimate their symptoms cannot be underestimated,” says Research Psychiatric Center Outpatient Services Manager and therapist Justina Weber. “They may minimize their pain, or joke about their feelings, when they are hurting deeply. In most cases, there are warning signs and risk factors with our patients, as was the case with Linda. I urge our community to understand these warning signs and be aware if they hear or see these patterns with friends, family or co-workers. That one conversation and connecting them to resources can literally be the difference between life and death.”

Weber stresses that in addition to the 9-8-8 number, there are vast mental health resources to support anyone having a mental health crisis. “Services including outpatient counseling, inpatient services and programs are available. No one should suffer alone,” she says.