A message from CEO Sherry Thomas-Cloud
It’s September, which means our Pack-a-Child-for-Camp summer program has come to an end and our Link Social-Emotional Learning program is starting its Fall semester. I’m happy to report that we were able to send 75 children to area camps this summer – through generous donations from many of you. Thank you!
Meanwhile, Link is helping youth ages 6-17 who have a mental health diagnosis or a developmental disability gain the skills they need to be successful at school, at home, and in the community.
September is important to us and our clients for another very important reason: This is National Suicide Prevention Month. Through our Mobile Crisis Response and Crisis Residential and Respite programs we encounter too many children who are contemplating suicide. For this reason, we are devoting our entire Fall 2018 newsletter to the topic of suicide.
Let me say this first:
- If you or someone you know under age 18 (in Kalamazoo County) is having suicidal thoughts, please call (888) 373-6200. This will connect you with Mobile Crisis Response, Family & Children Services’ 24/7 crisis response team.
- If you or an adult you know over age 18 (in Allegan, Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo, and Van Buren counties) is having suicidal thoughts, please call (269) 381-4357, the 24-hour HELP-Line at Gryphon Place.
- Anyone of any age (in Calhoun County) in a suicidal crisis may call (800) 632-5449 to reach the 24-hour Summit Pointe Crisis Hotline.
- Anyone of any age may also call the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 or text HOME to 741741, Crisis Text Line.
Whichever number you call, please know that compassionate and skilled professionals will answer your call, help you through your crisis, and get you the help you need.
The following articles will help all of us understand the growing toll that suicide is taking on our communities, as well as what our agency, other local organizations, and each of us can do individually to reduce this toll this month and throughout the year.
Sherry Thomas-Cloud, M.S.W., L.M.S.W.
Chief Executive Officer
Family & Children Services
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Understanding Suicide Statistics Leads to Better Prevention
Fashion designer Kate Spade and TV chef Anthony Bourdain recently added their names to a grim and growing list: The people who will commit suicide in the United States this year.
In 2016, the most recent year for which data is available, nearly 45,000 people committed suicide, making it the tenth leading cause of death in America and the second-leading cause of death among young people, ages 10-34.
All but one state showed higher suicide rates. Michigan ranked 34th nationally for its 1,364 annual suicides, up from a reported 974 suicides in 1999. That’s a 40% increase compared to a 25% increase nationwide in the same time period.
Experts believe the 2016 numbers were even higher, in part because stigma surrounding suicide leads to underreporting.
“There is a lot of stigma attached to suicide,” says Susan Davis, LPC, LBSW. “People don’t want to reach out for help. Family members, friends, teachers, coworkers, and others often feel afraid of the subject. Data collection methods that can lead to better prevention are swept up in this stigma.”
“Suicide victims are much more than numbers and names on a list,” Susan says. “They are people with families and friends who loved them. But understanding the statistics behind who commits suicide, and how, can help prevent other loved ones from dying and other families and friends from grieving.”
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Suicide is Preventable
What each of us can do to prevent it
“Suicide deaths are preventable, says Family & Children Services Behavioral Health Program Manager Susan Davis, LPC, LBSW. “With awareness and education we can envision a time when there are zero deaths by suicide.”
Yet for now, family members, friends, teachers, co-workers, and others in a position to help someone who may be contemplating suicide are still afraid to talk about it, she says.
“Don’t be afraid. People who are thinking about committing suicide have options. Help is available. There is hope.”
Here are some straightforward actions that Susan and other experts say each of us can take.
Look for Warning Signs
Mental health experts agree no one single factor leads to suicide. Look for warning signs that may indicate that someone is at risk of suicide. These include:
- Being isolated, withdrawing from friends and family
- Expressing feelings of hopelessness or being a burden to others
- A change in sleep habits: sleeping too much or too little
- Extreme mood swings, such as increased anger, anxiety, or sadness
- Decline in quality or interest in schoolwork, hobbies, daily activities
- Giving away important personal possessions
- Increased substance use
- Talking about suicide and people who have committed suicide
- Taking an interest in guns, pills, or other lethal means of suicide
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Suicide Prevention: What Our Community and Our Agency are Doing
“Suicide is preventable and there is always hope,” says Family & Children Services Behavior Health Program Manager Susan Davis. Much of this hope comes from government agencies, health care systems, employers, nonprofit organizations, schools, families, individuals, and human service agencies such as ours – “all of us combining our efforts to prevent suicide,” she says.
September is Suicide Awareness Month, so be on the lookout for walks, mental health training sessions, fund raisers, a “Messages of Hope” performance, and other events intended to bring people together and raise awareness of how to prevent suicide in our community and elsewhere.
Throughout the year, Family & Children Services and numerous other organizations are working diligently to raise suicide prevention awareness.
Do you have suicidal thoughts? Are you making a suicide plan? Do you know someone who might be? Keep searching. Don’t give up. Help is available. You matter.
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