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Leon’s Suicide Rate Nearly Double Homicide Rate

Kevin L. Robinson, DeCA public affairs specialist

September is suicide prevention month. Groups are speaking out to break the silence and support those left behind.

Lee’s Place is a grief and trauma therapy center in Tallahassee. Its founder, Brenda Rabalais, is an adult therapist.

“We provide therapy for any type of loss or trauma," she says. "So we do see often suicide survivors."

She helps people learn how to cope with the grief and work through feelings of helplessness.

“And some of it is just acknowledging how helpless they felt and how devastating it is and to say those things out loud. It can be a healing process," she says.

Leon County had 29 official suicides last year, but she notes there are a number of other deaths that are questionable. Still, the 29 confirmed suicides outpaces the 17 homicides the county had that same year.

Big Bend Hospice’s Pam Mezzina says the questions loved ones have about a suicide can be overbearing.

“But I think part of the challenge is to help survivors understand that there are going to be some questions that will always remain questions," she says. "And to live with the ambivalence of such powerful, conflicting emotions that are going to be like waves of grief and trauma probably for a long time.”

But she says healing can be found through community support.

And Nancy O’Farrell, second vice president with Tallahassee’s National Alliance for Mental Illness, is part of that community. She says finding connections is an important part of recovery.

“Post-vention, which is the support of the survivors after the fact, turns into prevention. You can’t prove a negative, but statistics indicate that you are preventing future suicides by supporting people who are suffering this terrible loss,” she says.

Guests made their comments on WFSU’s Public Affairs Program, Perspectives.