Be the 1 – Reach Out a Hand

A Walk Out of Darkness

(L to R): Cynde Johnson, Victoria Patti, Thaddeus Lund, Chris Anderson , Annie Rosenthal

Article Contributed by
Walt Pickut

Life is precious. But sometimes it takes a helping hand to remember that – reaching out to help someone take a first step out of the darkness.

“I think it’s just the way we are made,” said Victoria Patti, coordinator for Chautauqua County’s Community Alliance for Suicide Prevention. “We all want to help when we see a friend or a neighbor or even a stranger in need.” In that spirit, September 2017 has been designated National Suicide Prevention Month, with Chautauqua County’s observance slated for the week of Monday, September 18 through Saturday, September 23.

“Suicide has been a taboo topic for a long time,” Patti said, “but people are beginning to realize the good news that there is lifesaving work going on to help prevent it.”

According to the National Center for Health Statistics at the CDC suicide ranks at about number 10 among the leading causes of death in the United States. Although it is far behind such well-known killers as heart disease and cancer, it is also among those for which the efforts at prevention and treatment are moving rapidly forward.

A caring and well-informed community can play a critical role in suicide prevention according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).

Take a Walk
“Six years ago 75 people set out for a stroll at Falconer High School for our first Out Of Darkness walk,” said Ann Rosenthal, the public relations coordinator for Chautauqua Tapestry, a key organizer for this year’s event. “By last year the walk had grown to about 500 people.” Out of the Darkness walks nationwide are by far the AFSP’s largest fundraiser, raising millions of dollars for suicide prevention programs and uniting those who have been affected by suicide with communities learning about the important mental health issues of the day.

The motto for this week’s walk and for Chautauqua County’s suicide prevention week is, “Be the 1 to Reach Out a Hand.” The emphasis is on recognizing the warning signs for people at risk for suicide and connecting them with help.

The Chautauqua County Crisis Hotline is open 24/7/365 at 1-800-724-0461.
On Saturday morning, September 23, at 10 o’clock, the Northwest Arena at 319 W. 3rd St. in Jamestown, New York, will be the staging point for this year’s Out of the Darkness walk. It will step off once again to prove that when people work together they can make big changes in their community and in the world.

The walk is designed to unite people affected by suicide with the community that cares about them. A highlight of the walk will be the balloon release. White, yellow and blue balloons will rise into the sky from Jamestown’s Third Street bridge celebrating the hope that Suicide Prevention Week has come to represent.

To preregister for the Out of the Darkness Walk, Jamestown Gazette readers can visit www.afsp.org/walks or register on the day of the event between 8:30 and 10 a.m.

A Full Week
Suicide prevention week offers a full slate of activities and guest speakers all week long for adults, children, mental health workers, and all interested and concerned local residents. Key locations in addition to the Northwest Arena include the Chautauqua Mall, Jamestown Community College, SUNY Fredonia, the Resource Center in Dunkirk and the Mental Health Association in Chautauqua County in Jamestown. For the full lineup visit Community Alliance for Suicide Prevention events tab on Facebook.

Anyone who attends any of the events during Chautauqua County Suicide Prevention Week will have a chance to win a copy of “Cracked, Not Broken: Surviving and Thriving After a Suicide Attempt” by Kevin Hines and a Kevin Hines T-Shirt, according to Cynde Johnson, Marketing Director for Chautauqua Mall in Lakewood.

A Remarkable Example
Very few people survive a leap off San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. One person who survived and is sharing his exceptional story is Kevin Hines. After two years of struggling with bipolar disorder, diagnosed at the age of 19, Kevin attempted to take his life by jumping 245 feet into the frigid waters of the San Francisco Bay.

Kevin did not end his life that day, but he changed his life forever and the lives of countless of others for the better. He is now an award-winning and dynamic global speaker, a best-selling author, a documentary filmmaker and mental health advocate working around the world. As part of Suicide Prevention Week, Kevin Hines will be a special guest speaker at Jamestown Community College’s Scharmann Theatre at 7 p.m. on Thursday evening, September 21, and on the SUNY Fredonia campus, Williams Center, at 10 a.m. on Thursday.

Success Stories
“Success stories are not hard to find in Chautauqua County,” said Chris Anderson, Marketing and E-commerce Manager for The Resource Center, another key sponsor in the week’s activities, “though we don’t always know their names and specific circumstances. But we know that we succeeded when people are reaching out for support, because it shows they know that they have resources for help.”

“And it’s not all sad stories,” Thaddeus Lund, The Resource Center’s Program Manager added, “there are a lot of positive ones.”

Suicide Warning Signs

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
  • Looking for ways to kill oneself
  • Talking about hopelessness, no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious, agitated, reckless
  • Sleeping too little, too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage, seeking revenge
  • Extreme mood swings

Suicide Hotline: 1 – 800 – 724 – 0461

Special Work
“It’s not a 9-to-5 job,” Victoria explained one morning last week at the Chautauqua Tapestry offices in Mayville. “We are responding to emails and Facebook posts frequently for those who want to get involved in prevention efforts. Our work here is kind of a lifestyle. We believe it’s our responsibility to provide that to our community, especially to somebody who needs that.”

“This is a topic I am glad to have training in,” Ann Rosenthal added. “It is rewarding and fulfilling to know that I can help people that way, by sometimes just giving a person a listening ear.”

“The reason this is so important to me is because I care about Chautauqua County,” Victoria explained, “and because I have lived here all my life. I have seen our community go through the hardship of suicide. It is very rewarding to provide positive outlets to those who have been touched by suicide, whether it’s personal or simply that they know someone who has been affected by it. They know that there are resources here and that people don’t have to struggle alone.”

Suicide prevention, however, is not limited to professionals. “Many people have been touched personally by suicide,” Victoria said, “and they have found that sharing their story is very impactful because they have turned their loss and their heartache into something that can be healing.”

As a result, recognizing the signs of suicide risk – is very important, not only for those at risk but for their friends, loved ones and the community as a whole. See the attached important list of those recognizable signs.

More to Learn
To better understand the work of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention visit www.afsp.org. Chautauqua Tapestry was created to assist the County to act as a system of care for children and youth with emotional and behavioral challenges and their families. Visit their website at www.chautauquatapestry.org. They welcome visitors to their site or their Facebook page with questions and concerns to share. Please visit the Community Alliance for Suicide Prevention of Facebook for further information about upcoming trainings and events. Readers can also visit www.BeThe1To.com for more resources related to suicide prevention.