Suicidal thoughts, much like mental health conditions, can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background. Suicide is often the result of an untreated mental health condition. Suicidal thoughts, although common, should not be considered normal and often indicate more serious issues.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more than 41,000 individuals die by suicide each year, leaving behind their friends and family members to navigate the tragedy of loss. In Pennsylvania, on average, one person dies by suicide every four hours. In many cases, friends and families affected by a suicide loss are left in the dark. Too often the feelings of shame and stigma prevent them from talking openly.
The Suicide Prevention Coalition of Franklin County and the South Central Community Action Program’s (SCCAP) Community Film Night are partnering to show a free screening of the documentary film “The S Word”, on Thursday, August 29, in the Wood Center at the Capitol Theatre in downtown Chambersburg. Facilitated group discussions will follow the movie and information about community resources and supports will be available. The event is free however registrations are encouraged at www.sccap.org/communityfilmnight
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month—a time to shed light on this highly taboo and stigmatized topic. The Suicide Prevention Coalition is using the month to reach out to those affected by suicide, raise awareness and connect individuals with suicidal ideation to treatment services. It is also important to ensure that individuals, friends and families have access to the resources they need to discuss suicide prevention.
During the month of September, purple ribbons and lights will be hung on the trees on Main Street in downtown Chambersburg to raise awareness of suicide and to start conversations. The fountain will also be uplighted with the colors purple and teal, colors associated with the national suicide prevention awareness campaign.
The Suicide Prevention Coalition is also distributing 1000 coasters to be given away at local restaurants, coffee shops, bars and clubs. The coasters promote the message “Talk About It” and the Keystone Health Crisis Hotline, which is 866-918-2555. The Keystone Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Teens for a Better Tomorrow, the youth advisory board for Chambersburg Cares, will be highlighting the Crisis Text Line through the use of mirror clings in Chambersburg. Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741741) is a way to connect to a free, trained crisis counselor by texting on a mobile device.
Other activities planned during September:
- Mental Health Association of Franklin and Fulton Counties (MHAFF) will be at First Friday on September 6 in downtown Chambersburg to share suicide prevention and awareness resources
- Suicide Prevention Coalition Meeting (open to the public) on September 9th at 2:30pm at the MHAFF at 478 Grant Street in Chambersburg
- Franklin County Commissioners Proclamation September 10th at 9:30am
- Question, Persuade, Refer Training - FREE - September 10th & 19th at MHAFF at 1pm and October 24th at 12:45pm in Fulton County; email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 717-264-4301 to register
- WellSpan Health is hosting “A Mothers Reckoning” book discussion about the acclaimed New York Times bestseller by Sue Klebold, mother of one of the Columbine shooters, about living in the aftermath of Columbine and the importance of mental health awareness and intervention in our local community on September 4 from 12pm-1pm at WellSpan Chambersburg Hospital Library and at Coyle Free Library from 6pm-7pm. Complimentary light refreshments will be provided. Please RSVP by calling (717)-262-4472 by Sunday, September 1, 2019 or online at www.summithealth.org/CommunityConversation
It’s important to know that beyond the month of September the conversations need to continue. One way to do that is to participate in Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR), a free, one-hour training available either online or in-person to Franklin County residents. For more information, contact Bethany Palmatier at the MHAFF at email@example.com or call 717- 264-4301.
Pennsylvania Statistics (CDC, 2019); Pennsylvania Department of Health, 2019)
- In 2017, 2,023 people died by suicide in Pennsylvania
- More than six times as many people died by suicide in Pennsylvania in 2017 than in alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents
- Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in Pennsylvania:
- 2nd leading cause of death for ages 15-34
- 4th leading cause of death for ages 35-54
- 8th leading cause of death for ages 55-64
- 17th leading cause of death for ages 65 & older
These are not just numbers. They are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, family members, neighbors, loved ones, and community leaders who have, for one reason or another, temporarily lost hope. By working together this September, we can prevent suicide.
The Suicide Prevention Coalition is a committee of the Healthy Franklin County Mental Health Task Force and works to address mental health issues in Franklin County. For more information about the task force, contact Noel Purdy at 717-267-4877.