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Breaking The Stigma Around Suicide: Tucson woman shares her touching story

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TUCSON (KVOA) - September is Suicide Awareness Month and according to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, more than 48,000 Americans died by suicide in 2018. It's the tenth leading cause of death.

Dr. Jasleen Chhatwal lost her father to suicide 12 years ago.

"Our world was just completely changed. And that it is not really about how my dad died, but it's the fact that he was no longer there," Chhatwal said. "It was very traumatizing for both my mom and I to realize he had been struggling so much."

Chhatwal said she knew something was wrong with her father, but she did not recognize any of the signs.

"He was irritable with me. I was really taken aback because that was not my father's typical mannerism," Chhatwal said. "The night before he passed, I was actually having dinner and noticed that he wasn't eating and he played it down."

Kat Robey is a licensed counselor. She said identifying changes in behavior is an important sign that someone might be struggling.

"A lot of times, that might be a change in appetite, a change in their interactions with people," Robey said. "They might be more withdrawn or isolated, so there's what you know and there's the changes that are happening."

Chhattwal also said the sigma behind suicide made her dad not want to reach out for help. She said she did not want to seem weak or broken.

"He didn't want his professional image to be changed," Chhatwal said.

Even though Chhatwal's father is not with us anymore, she said she wants everyone to know it is okay to not be okay.

"You can have a mental health condition and you can have a loving family and be a successful person," Chhatwal said.

"We can't talk about it if we can't end the stigma about it," Robey said. "We are going to lose too much."

If you or someone you know is in immediate crisis, you can call 911 or reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or chat with someone online.

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

This group offers support to those struggling with suicide, whether it is families who have lost a loved one to suicide or for those who have suicidal thoughts. ADFP  raises money and works with advocates to advance suicide prevention efforts across the county.

More on how to become an advocate

Learn about AFSP Arizona, which was chartered in 2010.

AHCCS Suicide and Crisis Hotlines

These Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System hotlines are offered by county by the state's Medicaid agency:

  • Maricopa County served by Mercy Care:
    1-800-631-1314 or 602-222-9444
  • Cochise, Graham, Greenlee, La Paz, Pima, Pinal, Santa Cruz and Yuma Counties served by Arizona Complete Health - Complete Care Plan:
    1-866-495-6735
  • Apache, Coconino, Gila, Mohave, Navajo and Yavapai Counties served by Steward Health Choice Arizona:
    1-877-756-4090
  • Gila River and Ak-Chin Indian Communities:
    1-800-259-3449
  • Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community:
    1-855-331-6432

NAMI Southern Arizona

The National Alliance on Mental Illness in Southern Arizona offers a crisis hotline, as well as information on crisis facilities and other resources.

Crisis resources for the greater Tucson area:

If you or a loved one are in immediate crisis, call the Community Wide Crisis line: (520) 622-6000 or 1 (866) 495-6735.

If you need to call 911, NAMI says to ask for a CIT (Crisis Intervention Trained) officer who is equipped in handling a mental health crisis situation or ask for the MAC (Mobile Acute Crisis) Team.
Click here for more information 

Walk in crisis support is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at the Crisis Response Center, 2802 E District St in Tucson (South of AJo Way and Country Club)

Emerge Crisis Line for domestic violence and sexual assault victims:
(520) 795-4266 or 1 (888) 428-0101

Full list of crisis facilities available here

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

If you are in need of immediate help, you can call 911 or reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741, or chat with someone online.

More from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center

Austin Walker

Austin is a Reporter at KVOA News 4 Tucson. He graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism in May of 2020.

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