A group of people walking down a park path
By El Gibson

Pause for Prevention

UNM Health Sciences Well-Being Coalition Plans Events for Suicide Awareness Week

Suicide might be an uncomfortable topic for discussion, but experts say that it’s a matter that should be discussed openly and honestly.

To help raise awareness and open the dialogue, The University of New Mexico Health Sciences recognizes Sept. 10-16 as Suicide Awareness Week (across the country, the month of September is recognized as Suicide Awareness Month).

“It’s important to talk about suicide because, whether we talk about it or not, it is a part of our world today,” said Elizabeth Lawrence, MD, Chief Wellness Officer in the UNM School of Medicine.

“If we want to prevent deaths by suicide, then we need to have conversations about it, alert people to what it is, and know how to talk about it, how to recognize signs of distress and how to approach people having distress. We also need to widely distribute resources, so people know that they’re not alone.”

The number of suicide deaths in New Mexico increased in 2020. According to the New Mexico Department of Health, 520 New Mexicans died by suicide in 2020, which was 23% higher than in 2010.

“Unfortunately, suicide rates in New Mexico have been dramatically on the rise,” Lawrence said.

Suicide is complex issue, influenced by a variety of personal and community risk factors. Lawrence said it’s important to recognize that no one is impervious to potentially developing and experiencing suicidal depression.

“With the right combination and the perfect storm, really anyone can be vulnerable,” Lawrence said. “A number of factors play a role, but anyone is at risk.”

To help raise awareness of suicide prevention and as part of Suicide Awareness Week, the Health Sciences Well-Being Coalition has planned a week of activities focused on suicide awareness and prevention.

This annual campaign aims to educate the community about suicide prevention, strives to reduce the stigma surrounding suicide and encourages the pursuit of mental health assistance.


Elizabeth Lawrence, MD
In the pandemic, with rising rates of anxiety, depression, sleeplessness and distress, everyone has been talking about the importance of getting help and resources have been expanded. We’ve come a long way. . . but there’s still a lot of work to do
Elizabeth Lawrence, MD

“During the pandemic – with rising rates of anxiety, depression, sleeplessness and distress –everyone has been talking about the importance of getting help, and resources have been expanded,” Lawrence said. “We’ve come a long way, but on the other hand, there’s still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health care. There’s still a lot of work to do.”

The first planned event is the UNM Walk for Suicide Awareness on Saturday, Sept. 10, from 9-11 a.m. at Johnson Field. While participation is free, a suggested donation of $5 or more will benefit the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico. Donations can be made here.

“We know that our transgender population, particularly our young transgender population, are at very high risk for suicide,” Lawrence said. “So, this was a local, community-based organization we could support to hopefully try to reduce suicide.”

To close out the week, there will be a candlelight vigil at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 16, at Johnson Field, at which Douglas Ziedonis, MD, MPH, executive vice president for Health Sciences and CEO of the UNM Health System, will provide the opening remarks. The community is invited to come together for music, guest speakers and candlelight remembrances.

Lawrence added that there will be an artist exhibition called Painting for Hope running through the end of September in the Domenici Center for Health Sciences Education. The exhibition will feature paintings done by students, staff and faculty that embody suicide awareness and support for the cause.

“They are beautiful paintings and I hope people will stop by and learn a little more about suicide and how it can be prevented,” Lawrence said.

For more information on the events planned, including additional webinars and trainings, visit the UNM Suicide Awareness Week website

Suicide Prevention Resources

There are many suicide prevention resources available, including:

988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline – The Lifeline provides 24-hour, confidential support to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. 988 has been designated as the new three-digit dialing code that will route callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call or text 988 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

Agora Crisis Center – Affiliated with The University of New Mexico, Agora is accredited by the International Council for Helplines and is a member of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network. Agora Crisis Center is confidential and offered free of charge to people of all ages anytime. Call 505-277-3013 to speak with trained volunteers. 

The Trevor Project Hotline – The Trevor Project provides 24/7 crisis support services to LGBTQ young people. Call 1-866-488-7386 to reach a trained counselor.

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