Youth suicide has reached epidemic proportions in America. An event in Tallahassee later this month will bring the community's suicide prevention resources together.
Anika Fields, the director of Florida A&M University's Office of Counseling Services, is thankful her campus has seen no recent student suicides. She also knows that could change at any time.
“I don’t think a lot of people – especially lay people – know that suicide is the third leading cause of death among youth in Florida and if it’s the third leading cause, then definitely we need to do as much as possible to prevent that,” she asserted.
Mary Bowers is with NAMI Tallahassee and that organization's LOSS Team for Suicide Survivors. She also lost her grown daughter Brooke to suicide.
“Well we know that 90 percent of the people who do kill themselves have a mental illness,” she said. “There’s so much attention paid to other things and I think that finally people are realizing that more people die from suicide than homicide, breast cancer, motor vehicle accidents and HIV. So we’re finally getting the courage I think to talk about it.”
Meg Young is the director of Behavior Health at Capital Regional Medical Center.
“There’s the National Suicide Hotline,” she said. “Their number is: 800-273-8255. But they can also talk to their friends and neighbors and maybe they can point them in the right direction and that’s why we’re hoping to get the word out to the community so if somebody does come and talk to you, you know where to go get help.”
Which, added the center's Outreach Director Kelli Mercer, is the purpose of the Community Suicide Prevention Forum on Thursday, January 25th.
“We’re partnering with the Jason Foundation of Hendersonville, Tennessee,” she explained. “It was founded by a gentleman named Clark Flatt. His son was Jason and Jason died by suicide when he was 16 years old and 3 months after his death his father formed the Jason Foundation.”
Clark Flatt himself will speak at the event. NAMI's Mary Bowers hoped anyone who deals with young people will consider attending.
“Since the Jason Foundation really is targeted more to the youth program, we’re hoping that the PTAs, teachers, principals and all the parents will realize this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she said.
FAMU's Anika Fields said one never knows when the information shared during that happening could become a literal lifesaver.
“You might get a student who wants to talk to someone, but doesn’t want to come to the Counseling Center and they want to talk to a faculty person who doesn’t know what to say or how to say it. And we don’t want that to be. We want them to know what to say and what to do at that time.”
Because, as Capital Regional's Meg Young stressed, so many children, teenagers and young adults are living so close to the edge.
“The statistics are that one in four students say that they’re depressed and feel like killing themselves if nothing changes. They have these pressures and if they’re feeling alone and that’s their perception, then there’s no way out.”
The hospital's Kelli Mercer said the event is just weeks away. “It’s January 25 from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. at the Florida A&M University Grand Ballroom located at 1925 S. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and we’ll have some light refreshments served and we’re hoping to have a great crowd of folks to come out and support the event and learn more about the warning signs and what resources are here in our community to help our your friends and family and loved ones.”
There's no charge to attend. Mercer asks those interested in going to RSVP by calling: 850-325-3627.