For many people, September symbolizes the end of summer, but the month also marks a time to raise awareness for an often taboo topic-suicide. National Suicide Prevention Month, acknowledged every September, strives to raise awareness and end the heartbreaking effects of suicide. Specifically, this year marks the 39th Annual National Suicide Prevention week from September 8-14 with Worldwide Suicide Prevention Day being the 9th. The United States Military also recognizes the month as Military Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in this country and in 2012, 350 people in the military took their own life. It’s an issue worth talking about, and members in our community are doing just that.
“Depression is treatable, suicide is preventable,” says Tante Lovins, a prevention specialist and the coordinator of the Four County Suicide Prevention Coalition. The Coalition is working with many area schools to raise awareness among both middle and high school students. Area schools participating in Fulton and Williams counties include Wauseon, Evergreen, Archbold, North Central, Hilltop, Edgerton, and Montpelier. The schools are supplied with awareness packs of yellow ribbons and sidewalk chalk and “the sky is the limit” for the different ways they choose to utilize the material. A yellow ribbon is used to symbolize the awareness for suicide.
Purple, another ribbon color used to symbolize suicide awareness and prevention, serves as a reminder that suicide is an issue that needs to be talked about. In the community of Wauseon, Mayor Doug Shaw recently proclaimed September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. In this community, purple ribbons are available at the area PNC Bank, Farmers and Merchant State Banks, and First Federal Banks. Sherryann Franks, who works with the Wauseon VFW and American Legion, is specifically concerned about the impact of depression and suicide in the military. While her focus lies with the military, she feels that the community in general needs to recognize the warning signs of suicide. She recently spoke to the Wauseon Rotary group about the topic. Franks says, “It [suicide] is on the rise. We can’t give up. There is hope, always have patience.” The purple ribbons are available to the community through the month at no cost. She says the biggest donation the community can make is to wear them to raise awareness.
There are several warning signs of suicide such as talk about death, feeling hopeless or being a burden to others, increased use of alcohol or drugs, increased anxiousness or agitation, sleeping too much or not enough, withdrawal from others, rage, and extreme mood swings. If you or someone you knows is experiencing these symptoms, seek professional help. The US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
If you would like to be a part of the community efforts to raise awareness, you might consider being a part of the One Step at a Time 5K Run and Walk to be held Saturday, September 28 at the Defiance College. A Stomp on the Stigma display of 180 shoes will be displayed the week prior and at the walk. This powerful visual display symbolizes the 180 youth suicides that occurred in Ohio in 2010. For more information about the event or suicide prevention resources, you can contact Tante Lovins at the Four County Family Center at 419-335-3732.
Regardless of whether the ribbon worn is yellow or purple, the message is still the same. Tante Lovins says, “It is a huge stigma. We are still fighting.” Suicide is preventable and together we can help those who need hope.
Tammy Allison may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org