Suicide prevention, awareness of signs focus of event, month

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. While a worthy cause, one month unfortunately seems inadequate to address an issue of such scope, complexity and, ultimately, tragedy as suicide.

It’s likely each of us has known someone who took his or her own life, be it a friend, family member or colleague.

And, sadly, suicide has been on the rise in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

From 1999 through 2016, the suicide rate increased in nearly every state, and was up by more than 30 percent in half of the states, the CDC reported. In 2016, nearly 45,000 people succeeded in taking their own lives; it was the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.

For Michigan, the rate was up almost 33 percent.

One area of particular concern is veterans. In 2015, veterans accounted for 14.3 percent of all deaths by suicide, even though they make up only 8.3 percent of the U.S. adult population, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. After adjusting for differences in age, the rate of suicide for veterans in 2015 was 2.1 times higher compared with non-veterans among U.S. adults, the VA states.

Personalized peer support is available through Vets4Warriors at 1-855-838-8255 or by texting to 838255. Veterans who are contemplating suicide or having serious issues should call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1.

Locally, Community HOPE for Suicide Prevention will host its 10th annual event and walk noon to 10 p.m. Saturday at City Park in Iron Mountain, with walk registration from noon to 2 p.m.

The speaker will be Randy St. John, a long-time Kingsford resident who lost a brother to suicide and a son to a drug overdose. The event also will have live music, a raffle, cotton candy, popcorn, bouncy house, face painting, coloring and carnival games.

A free Italian dinner will be provided and the event is for all ages, walkers and non-walkers. More details are on Page 8B.

Community HOPE is a non-profit organization that raises awareness about mental illness. The group also reaches out to area schools so staff and students learn the warning signs so they can help those contemplating suicide.

Those signs can include: Feeling like a burden; being isolated; increased anxiety; feeling trapped or in unbearable pain; increased substance use; looking for a way to access lethal means; increased anger or rage; extreme mood swings; expressing hopelessness; sleeping too little or too much; talking or posting about wanting to die; and making plans for suicide

For more information on Saturday’s event, call Carole Waitrovich at 906-396-7819 or Dylan Hagerty at 715-219-2670.

Those who may be in more serious need should call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255.

More understanding, more dialog, more intervention before despair becomes overwhelming — that’s the reason for National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.