Members of the Stanford women's soccer team wear warmup jerseys with "Mental Health Matters" on their backs as well as a green butterfly patch on their sleeves to remember the late goalie Katie Meyer, before an NCAA college soccer match against UCLA on Friday, Oct. 14, 2022, in Stanford, Calif. Meyer committed suicide earlier in the year. Credit: Yalonda M. James / San Francisco Chronicle via AP

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To reach a suicide prevention hotline, call the new 988 three-digit hotline or visit Suicide prevention services can also be reached at 888-568-1112 or 800-273-TALK (8255).

September was Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, an annual and important reminder of the need to raise awareness and provide support to people who are struggling with their mental health. But that is a message that must be emphasized year round, not just one month during the year.

With an often stigmatized subject such as this, awareness can first start with being willing to talk about it. There can be great power in acknowledging hard things, and the family of Theo Ferrara has proven that in a heartbreaking but also inspiring way recently.

Ferrara was a 14-year-old freshman at Freeport High School. He went missing in September and his body was found days later in the water on the Brunswick coast. His family described him as “a truly kind soul who sought out opportunities to make others feel good about themselves” in his obituary.

“We believe Theo’s death was a suicide and that is a loss and grief that is complex and difficult,” his family said in a recent statement, according to TV station WMTW. “Our wish is for each and every one of you to know that if they think to themselves, ‘no one would miss me if I was gone’ please know that Theo thought the same. Look at the evidence of how much people cared for and loved him. We ALL notice your absence, Theo. We ALL miss you and will forever grieve for you and yearn for you to know how important you were to each of us.”

It is so important for people struggling or in crisis to know that they are not alone, that there are people who care about them and that there is help available. Earlier this year, 988, a new three-digit suicide prevention hotline, launched nationally and in Maine. The pre-existing Maine Crisis Line is still accepting calls, texts and chats at 1-888-568-1112. Calls to the the previous National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number, 1-800-273-8255, are also still being answered.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has a detailed guide, for both people in crisis and those close to them, for navigating a mental health crisis.

“Mental illnesses are medical conditions that disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, daily functioning and ability to relate to others. Mental illness doesn’t develop because of a person’s character or intelligence,” the NAMI guide states. “Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, a mental illness is a disorder of the brain that can make it difficult to cope with the ordinary demands of life. No one is to blame — not the person and not the family.”

In a gubernatorial forum Thursday night, former governor and current Republican candidate Paul LePage highlighted the concerning fact that suicide is the second leading cause of death among Maine youth. Equally concerning is the persistence of this fact. It was true in a 2018 report, when LePage was governor, and true even as far back as the administration of then-Gov. Angus King. Nationally, suicide is also the second leading cause of death for people aged 10-14, according to NAMI.

Cleary, continued work to break through suicide stigma and provide support is needed — especially for young people. It must be an ongoing effort to raise awareness, make sure that people in crisis know they are not alone, and emphasize that resources exist to help them.

We commend Theo Ferrara’s family for making such an important statement, at such a difficult time of unimaginable loss.

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The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Editorial Page Editor Susan Young, Assistant Editorial Page Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked...