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Shelly Barnes: September set as Suicide Prevention Month

Shelly Barnes • Aug 29, 2017 at 9:19 PM

Losing someone special to death, no matter the circumstance, is never easy. Hearing about the passing of friends, family members, colleagues or community leaders can be equally tough, especially when the cause is preventable, said Heather Wallace, assistant professor and a human development specialist with University of Tennessee Extension. 

According to the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, there were 1,065 deaths by suicide in Tennessee in 2015, which is at a rate of 16.1 per 100,000.  Thirty-one of these deaths were Wilson County residents. Suicide is a leading cause of death among youth and young adults in the state and across the nation.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in Tennessee as declared by the governor. In Tennessee, suicide is the second-leading cause of death in the 15-24-year-old age group. The highest risk group at this point is middle-aged men. 

Matt Devereaux, professor and a child development specialist with UT Extension Family and Consumer Sciences, said parents and caregivers should seize this opportunity to talk open and honestly with youth who are middle- and high-school age about the signs and symptoms of depression and suicidal thoughts. 

“You will not cause a person to become suicidal just by talking about it,” he said. “Communicate clearly that you are a safe person that he or she can always reach out to for non-judgmental and honest conversations about mental health.” 

Some of the signs and symptoms of suicidal thoughts and planning, along with resources to guide conversations, and where to turn for help, include: 

• looking for a way to kill oneself, like searching online or buying items to assist suicide.

• preoccupation with death.

• talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself, feeling hopeless or no reason to live, feeling trapped or in unbearable pain, wanting to sleep and not wake up or being a burden to others.

• increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.

• acting anxious or agitated and being reckless.

• sleeping too little or too much.

• withdrawing or feeling isolated.

• showing rage or talking about revenge.

• displaying extreme mood swings.

• sudden sense of calm and happiness after being extremely depressed.

• giving away personal items for no apparent reason.

Need help now?

• The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 is a free, 24-hour hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.

• In Tennessee, call 855-274-7471 or chat online from 1 p.m. until 1 a.m. 

If you’re with someone in need of help, experts recommend you take these steps:

• Stay with that person until he or she has the help they need.

• Ask to call a help lifeline for him or her.

• Persuade the person that he or she needs professional help. Take that person to the hospital if needed.

More information is available from the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network.  Information and training opportunities can be found at tspn.org. 

On Sept. 26, the sixth-annual Never Alone event, sponsored by the Wilson County Health Council and its’ community partners, will take place. The event will be held on the campus of Cumberland University at 6 p.m. in the quad area behind the cafeteria. The event is to remember those we have lost to suicide and offer support to those who have been affected by suicide. The event is free and open to anyone interested. For more information about the event, please call Marisa Hunter, health coordinator at the Wilson County Health Department, at 615-444-5325, ext. 1014. 

UT Extension provides a gateway to the University of Tennessee as the outreach unit of the Institute of Agriculture. With an office in every Tennessee county, UT Extension delivers educational programs and research-based information to citizens throughout the state and provides equal opportunities in all programming and employment. In cooperation with Tennessee State University, UT Extension works with farmers, families, youth and communities to improve lives by addressing problems and issues at the local, state and national levels.

For more information on this or other family and consumer sciences-related topics, contact Shelly Barnes, family and consumer sciences Extension agent for UT Extension in Wilson County. Barnes may be reached at sbarnes@utk.edu or 615-444-9584.

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