Suicide prevention

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Like all people, students, military members, law enforcement officers, parents, and teachers can experience suicidal thoughts, and every year many fall victim to death by suicide. Suicide is not prejudiced.

Alabama has the 24th highest suicide rate in America, and it’s on the rise.

Nationally suicide is the 10th leading cause of death, and the second leading cause of death for youth and young adults. Alabama’s suicide rates have increased by 36.5 percent since 1999, which marks the 33rd largest increase of any state over this time, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and Centers for Disease Control.

“We see roughly 3 to 10 new clients a day who are struggling with issues such as stress, depression, and hopelessness,” said Dr. Ginger Mayer, executive director of Living Waters Counseling in Headland. “All these issues can lead to death by suicide if help is not sought. For someone to feel hopeless, they believe there is nothing they can do to change their life; and the enemy, which is the devil, takes over. The devil constantly beats that person down until they feel they don’t have an identity, and without an identity they are nothing — or so the devil wants them to believe. There is hope and God gives us that hope as long as we put God in our lives. If you take God out of your life, there is no hope. God is hope.”

Stress and hopelessness are some of the leading factors to death by suicide in adults, but for pre-teens and teenagers, Mayer places the blame on bullying.

“Bullying is a problem for children of all ages,” Mayer said. “The sad thing is, over time, this problem has grown and so has the number of teenagers who have lost their lives to suicide.

“Bullying has side effects that can last a lifetime. However, we are seeing pre-teens and teenagers who believe they have reached their limit and they just can’t take anymore. This is scary and we should all be worried. There should never be a time when a child or teenager thinks about taking their own life, especially because of bullying.”

She recommends that parents, teachers and counselors make sure a student knows there is someone to talk to, especially their parents.

“Every parent needs an open relationship with their child. Find time to have a conversation with your child and listen, and if you believe your child is being bullied, get your child help. Getting help for your child could help save your child’s life.”

Mayer also sees an increase in the number of veterans reaching out for help through Living Waters Counseling.

In 2014, a average of 20 veterans a day died from suicide, according to the Disabled American Veterans website.

According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs:

» In 2015, veterans accounted for 14.3 percent of all deaths by suicide among U.S. adults and constituted 8.3 percent of the U.S. adult population (ages 18 and up). In 2010, veterans accounted for 16.5 percent of all deaths by suicide and represented 9.6 percent of the U.S. adult population.

» The burden of suicide resulting from firearm injuries remains high among veterans. In 2015, the percent of suicide deaths that involved firearms remained unchanged from 2014 at 67.0 percent.

» After adjusting for differences in age, the rate of suicide in 2015 was 2.1 times higher among veterans compared with non-veteran adults.

» After adjusting for differences in age, the rate of suicide in 2015 was 1.3 times higher among male veterans compared with non- veteran adult men.

» After adjusting for differences in age, the rate of suicide in 2015 was 2.0 times higher among female veterans compared with non-veteran adult women.

» In 2015, rates of suicide were highest among younger veterans (ages 18–34) and lowest among older veterans (ages 55 and older). However, veterans ages 55 and older accounted for 58.1 percent of all Veteran suicide deaths in 2015.

Law enforcement agencies across the nation are also being affected by suicide.

In 2018, at least 167 officers died by suicide, more than the total number of line-of-duty deaths resulting from 15 other causes such as felonious assault, patrol vehicle accident, heart attack, and duty-related illness.

Since Jan.1 more than 30 officers have committed suicide.

“During my career in law enforcement, I have seen two deputies commit suicide,” said Houston County Sheriff Donald Valenza. “That’s why I proudly host the annual statewide Enforcement for Alliance for Peer Support (ALLEAPS) conference. This conference allows law enforcement officers and first responders training in crisis intervention. Law enforcement officers are at high-risk for suicide and this program allows officers to seek help without it being held against them. ALLEAPS allows a first responder a chance to speak with a trained individual on a personal or career-related issue that is causing an officer stress. Unless you have a family member involved in law enforcement, you have no idea what kind of stress that can put on an officer’s family. This is not a job where you don’t take things home. You are an officer 24 hours-a-day, and sometimes an officer needs someone to talk to.”

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, contact the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at 800-273-8255.

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Follow Michele Forehand on Twitter @micheleforehan1

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