Contributing Writer
Walt Pickut

Every life is worth saving, but it costs. In 2016, the U.S. spent $10,348 per person on healthcare, $3.3 trillion in total. That’s 17.9 percent the nation’s gross domestic product. 

Fortunately, prevention almost always costs less than a cure. In the case of America’s 10th leading cause of death, nearly 45,000 per year, prevention may be the least expensive of them all. The cause of these 45,000ndeaths is suicide, and suicide prevention saves lives. The miracle cure is Care. 

“We have to care for each other,” Annie Rosenthal of Chautauqua Tapestry told the Jamestown Gazette last week for the kickoff of National Suicide Prevention Week, September 9 to 15.

A Preventable Cause

Suicide is preventable. According to the National Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), about 24 people out of every 25 survive their attempt, based on an estimated nearly 1.3 million attempts every year. Suicides alone are calculated to cost the nation $70 billion every year.

Fortunately, as has been learned with CPR training for the general public, everyone can also learn how to save a life from suicide.

“More people get involved in suicide prevention events, ours and others, every year,” Rosenthal said, “so we believe our awareness efforts are being successful.” National Suicide Prevention Week raises awareness of suicide prevention and the warning signs for suicide. See page 6 for a list of warning signs commonly seen in people at risk for suicide. This week was created to inform and help mental health professionals and the general public alike in lifesaving care.

At Risk?

The risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors are more common than many local residents know. A 2015 youth survey reported by AFSP reveals that almost 1 on 10 youth in grades 9-12 say they had made at least one suicide attempt in the preceding 12 months.

Studies also show not enough is being done to prevent these youth suicides. QPR training – three steps: Question, Persuade, Refer (qprinstitute.com/) – is one solution that individuals and professionals alike can apply, using practical and proven suicide prevention strategies with both youth and adults.

Though one youth lost to suicide is too many, the highest risk within the population is experienced by adults 45 to 54 years of age, followed by those aged 85 or older. Knowing the warning signs allows friends, loved ones, teachers and others to take the well-known first step, “If you see something, say something.”

Prevention

A key to prevention, according to Rosenthal, is to overcome people’s reluctance to talk about the issue of suicide. “We want to help end the stigma,” she explained, “and let people know that mental health is as important as physical health.”

Depression, a sense of hopelessness and helplessness, are common triggers for suicide. “Many people have experienced tragic losses,” Rosenthal said, but added, “if you are struggling, don’t be afraid to reach out.”

Struggling with substance abuse is also often associated with mental health issues and suicide. “People can and do recover,” said Melanie Witkowski, executive director of Chautauqua Alcohol and Substance Abuse Council (CASAC – casacweb.org). That awareness of hope alone can reduce the incidence of suicide prompted by an apparently hopeless addiction. “And people in recovery can be the best advocates for recovering people,” Witkowski added. “They show that recovery is possible, the situation need not be hopeless, nor the person helpless.”

The 5th annual CASAC Recovery Walks, in Dunkirk and Jamestown, September 20 and 27, respectively “will not only celebrate recovery but the helpers, too, some of them, ordinary citizens themselves, have been touched by substance abuse and recovery,” Witkowski said. Everyone can learn and care in a way that matters to people at risk.

Resources

Chautauqua Tapestry, according to Rosenthal, is composed of 26 collaborating partners, agencies and organizations which have joined together to assist Chautauqua County with an integrated system of care for children, youth and adults with emotional and behavioral challenges and their families. They work with those in need of care and the caregivers as well, with training, counseling and referrals.

The signs of crisis are many, but quality education will empower all people to see and identify more of them and make a positive difference in the life of someone they know, or even themselves. 

The Semicolon Movement, according to Rosenthal, offers another avenue of hope. A semicolon ;  refers to a way to end a sentence and still continue. They remind people that, “Your story is not over.” 

Project Semicolon is an anti-suicide, mental health initiative, aimed at “presenting hope and love to those who are struggling with depression, suicide, addiction, and self-injury.”

See page 8 to learn about some of the key events planned by Tapestry and its collaborating partners for National Suicide Prevention Week.

In An Emergency?

Call the Chautauqua County Crisis Hotline 1-800-724-0461 for 24-hour crisis phone intervention information and referral.

Readers can also call the New York State HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY (1-877-846-7369). This line offers help and hope 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for alcoholism, drug abuse and problem gambling, and may be a first step at intervening for an individual at risk for suicide related to those challenges.

Learn More

National Suicide Prevention Week has grown strong and deep roots in Chautauqua County. To learn how to help others, find sources of care and counseling, or even care for oneself, visit the websites listed above, especially afsp.org/find-support. Visit ChautauquaTapestry@co.chautauqua.ny.us to see a complete list of all collaborating partners at  Chautauqua Tapestry.

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Walt Pickut
Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.