Hidden Health: Bringing suicide prevention into the light

WGSI_HiddenHealthBY STACI WILSON

In this article, the third and final of a three-part series, ‘Hidden Health,’ will look at suicide prevention and the stigma attached to mental health issues. The first article in the series appeared in June and dealt with food allergies; the article appeared in July and focused on autoimmune disorders.

Nine.

Since the beginning of this year, there have been nine confirmed suicides in Susquehanna County. In a typical year, there are five or six deaths caused by suicide.

The local number increases when you include the people with close connections to this county but who died elsewhere.

The deaths have rocked area school districts and torn at the fabrics of families.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, over 38,000 people die from suicide each year in the United States.

AFSP focuses its efforts on prevention through its funding of scientific research; offering educational programs for professionals; educating the public about mood disorders and suicide prevention; promoting legislation that impacts prevention; and providing programs and resources for survivors of suicide loss and people at risk.

In effort to shed light on the issue, a ‘Break the Silence – Out of the Darkness Walk’ will be held Saturday, Sept. 7 at the Montrose Area Jr./Sr. High School.

Committee member Carol Cundey said, “Mental illness and suicide is so ‘hush-hush,’ No one talks about it.”

The walk is meant to “bring it out of the darkness,” she said.

Risk factors

AFPS identifies risk factors for suicide including mental disorders, in particular, Depression or bipolar (manic-depressive) disorder; Alcohol or substance abuse or dependence; Schizophrenia; Borderline or antisocial personality disorder; Conduct disorder (in youth); Psychotic disorders; psychotic symptoms in the context of any disorder; Anxiety disorders; and Impulsivity and aggression, especially in the context of the above mental disorders.

There are also environmental factors at play that increase suicide risk, including stress.

And there are often warning signs, such as talking about wanting to kill themselves; feeling hopeless; feeling of being a burden to others; having intense anxiety; rage; insomnia; as well as becoming socially withdrawn from family and friends.

Protective factors

But there are protective factors that may also diminish a person’s risk for suicide.

Protective factors include receiving effective mental health care and positive connections with family, friends, the community and social institutions; as well as problem solving skills.

Those factors can help people cope with negative life events but do not remove the risk, especially in people who have a personal or family history of depression or mental illness.

Survivors

Cundey also stressed the importance for survivors to know that they are not alone.

“There is a huge community of people left behind,” she said.

The Out of the Darkness Walk is a way for those survivors to come together.
“We need to get away from the stigma and talk about it,” Cundey said.

For more information about the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, visit www.afsp.org.

To get involved in the Sept. 7 Out of the Darkness Walk, visit www.outofthedarkness.org for more information or to donate.

Registration for the walk can be done online, or 9-11 a.m. the day of the walk at the Montrose Area High School.