Opinion: Reach out, help someone, prevent suicide

By Risa Lehrer LPCC lives in El Prado and is a member of HOT
Posted 9/5/19

September is suicide awareness month and with suicide being a major concern in Taos County, I felt I should write a letter to help bring awareness to the issue.Approximately 47,000 Americans …

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Opinion: Reach out, help someone, prevent suicide

Posted

September is suicide awareness month and with suicide being a major concern in Taos County, I felt I should write a letter to help bring awareness to the issue.

Approximately 47,000 Americans committed suicide in 2017 in the United States and 1.4 million made an attempt, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Suicide is the leading cause of death for ages 10-14 and third leading cause of death for ages 15-34 years old. On average, 129 people die per day due to suicide.

Each year Taos experiences multiple lives lost due to suicide. Each suicide has an intimate effect on at least 138 individuals. Taos has a higher rate of suicide than the rest of our state and double the national average, according to the state Department of Health.

Almost everyone in this community has known someone who has taken their life. Individuals who are connected to someone who took their life become four times more likely to contemplate and attempt suicide. For every person who has taken their life, there are 25 people who have made a serious attempt .

The 2017 Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey by Children Youth and Families Department indicates that more than 18.3 percent of the high school and mid-school students in Taos have seriously thought about taking their lives. If that percentage is applied to the whole community, that would mean almost 6,000 people in Taos County have made or thought about attempting suicide in their lifetime.

What are the indicators some one is contemplating suicide? You look for a change in behavior good or bad. Listen for any thing that seems out of character, Most signs are not easily identifiable. Being tired more often, negative self-talk, loss of interest and even irritability can be signs something is wrong.

More obvious signs are direct threats of hurting themselves, Talking about death (even in joking way), giving away possessions, obvious mental health issues, previous attempts, drug or alcohol use and a connection to another person (including through a social media site) who has committed suicide. You may see some of the above but it is also possible to not notice any of these until it's too late.

I have been working with the Help Outreach Team to find a solution to this problem. What can the community do? Identify those at risk and provide assistance, ensure access to effective mental health care, suicide support and treatment, respond effectively to individuals in crisis, reduce means to suicide, provide for immediate and longterm prevention and promote social connectedness and support.

If someone feels that their community cares they are more likely to reach out and seek help from someone.

These little things can be enough to help a person feel valued, loved and that they matter. It is for this reason that suicide rates are higher in a rural area. The fewer daily connections you have with real people the more likely you are to commit/attempt suicide.

We are in need of financial support (lobby or legislators for funding), community support and communication. Find out about the services that are available in our community. This is not only about the person seeking help - it's about the community.

On Wednesday (Sept. 18) we are asking all individuals who have been affected by a loss of someone, due to death by suicide, to join us at Kit Carson Park for an awareness walk at 4 p.m. We will walk to the plaza and hear from community members at 5:30 p.m. I am challenging the community to show up and start to talk about suicide as it affects our community.

All lives matter and it's time to stop pretending that this is not a community issue. We talk about cancer, domestic violence and drug abuse and bring awareness to these causes. Let's do the same for suicide. If you care, show your support for the prevention of suicide and join us on Sept 18.

Risa Lehrer LPCC lives in El Prado and is a member of HOT.

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