As September unfolds, I find myself reflecting on two deeply meaningful and intertwined observances: Recovery Month and Suicide Prevention Month. This time of year holds a profound significance in my heart, and I’d like to share with you why.
When I was a child, my grandmother took her life, intentionally escaping the depression, addiction and pain that she carried, through a lethal overdose of prescription medication. I came to understand very early on, how much pain people carry with them, and how sometimes that pain becomes too much to bear.
Nearly 30 years after my grandmother died by suicide, I lost my brother to a heartbreaking drug overdose while he was desperately waiting for a treatment bed. This past August marks 6 years since I heard his voice. I carry this loss with me every day and it drives me to make a difference through our work at Jefferson Center.
My brother, a born musician, lived life intensely, embracing joy, sorrow and anger with equal passion. He was not so different from my grandmother — both charismatic in ways that drew others to them — and yet they never seemed content or comforted by the circle of people they gathered. They struggled with loss, whether profound or seemingly trivial, and loneliness etched scars on their souls. It’s challenging to discern whether some of these traits were symptoms of addiction, depression, or the result of the traumas they faced. Perhaps they were encoded in genetics—a predisposition that has led so many in my family to struggle. Some who we have lost, and others who fight for recovery every day.
As a psychologist, I was armed with evidence-based theories and techniques — the gold standard in our field. However, I came face to face with a stark reality that sometimes these tools and techniques are simply not enough. Sometimes a person’s love is not enough.
It was while my brother was waiting for treatment that he succumbed to a drug overdose, a tragedy all too common in an escalating addiction epidemic. His story is just one of many that highlight the urgent need for accessible treatment and support. The numbers of lives lost continue to rise, painting a stark picture of the ongoing crisis.
My family’s experience fuels my commitment to this cause and is why Recovery Month and Suicide Prevention Month resonates with me on a personal level. The untimely deaths of these people I love provides a stark reminder of why our work is so vital, and this personal connection drives me to improve access to essential treatment services.
While there is no single clearly defined solution for those struggling with thoughts of suicide or those struggling with addiction, these are the things that we know matter: a community of connection, reducing stigma so no one has to suffer alone, knowing where to get quality treatment when the person is ready, and not having to wait.
No one should have to endure the agony of waiting for crucial treatment when they finally decide to seek help. That is the essence of our mission at Jefferson Center. We must come together as a community to break down barriers, reduce stigma, and ensure that those who seek help can find it when they are ready to embark on their journey to recovery.
At Jefferson Center, our approach is built on the foundation of connection. We believe that being part of a compassionate community can be a powerful source of strength for individuals facing mental health challenges, substance use issues, and thoughts of suicide. It’s not just about providing treatment; it’s about meeting people where they are, understanding their unique struggles, and offering a hand to guide them when they are ready to embark on their path to recovery.
We offer a full range of substance use, mental health and wellness services to help on the path to recovery. From individual and group counseling, to Medication Assisted Therapies, to family programs and connections to additional resources, we aim to create a network of evidence-based care that embraces our community members during their most vulnerable moments.
As we recognize Recovery Month and Suicide Prevention Month, it’s a time to unite as a community to support one another. Take a moment to extend a hand, lend an empathetic ear, and open your heart to someone in your life who may be silently struggling. It’s often the smallest acts of kindness that can make the biggest impact.
Let’s honor those who have summoned the strength and resources to recover, offer unwavering support to those still on that path, and remember the ones we have lost along the way. Most importantly, let’s all commit to fostering a community where mental health takes precedence, where no one suffers in isolation, and where treatment is readily available when it’s needed most.
– Kiara Kuenzler, Psy.D., Licensed Psychologist, President and CEO