Press-Republican

October 5, 2013

Hundreds expected for suicide awareness event

By KIM SMITH DEDAM Press-Republican
Press-Republican

---- — LAKE PLACID — A walk to raise awareness about suicide will bring hundreds of busy feet to the village here on Sunday.

The annual Out of the Darkness Community Walk starts at the Olympic Oval at 1 p.m. and proceeds along the 3-mile circle around Mirror Lake.

By Friday morning, registration tallies had reached more than $24,000 in donations to support ongoing efforts to disassemble the stigma and misconceptions around death by suicide.

Death by suicide affects about 60 percent of the U.S. population, according to Laura Marx, area director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

“Sixty percent of us will personally know someone who has died by suicide,” she said in a news release.

“And 20 percent of us will lose a close family member to suicide. Often, we hear survivors of suicide loss ... say that they feel alone and isolated. The Out of the Darkness Community Walk is an opportunity for them to connect with others who have had a shared experience.”

Funds raised go to the foundation.

AWARENESS, EDUCATION

Advocating for outreach and awareness, Saranac Lake parent Deb Jerdo is co-chairwoman of the North Country program. 

She and her husband, Doug, lost their son Joshua to suicide in February 2005, and they walk each year in memory of him.

Joshua was 23 at the time and had recently endured the tragic death of his sister Lindsay, who was stricken suddenly and did not survive spinal meningitis.

“Ninety percent of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable and treatable mental illness at the time of their death,” Jerdo said in sharing her thoughts ahead of the Out of the Darkness event.

“Our hope is that through community awareness events, such as the walk, people will be encouraged to talk openly about how they feel, they will begin to feel comfortable seeking help, and they will know where they can go to get the help they need. 

“Awareness, education and talking openly about suicide is how we will save lives.”

Jerdo said there was a time when cancer and alcoholism were hidden and taboo subjects, too.

“Now people are no longer afraid to talk about these once-feared topics and know where to turn for help,” she said. “That is our hope with suicide. 

“It takes everyone to stand up and say that this is important.”

GRIM STATISTICS

Statistics continue to show that suicide is among the top 10 causes of death in the United States.

Among the entire population, someone dies by suicide every 13.7 minutes, according to data gathered by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Those numbers reflect the incidence of suicide in 2010, the latest data available.

“The highest suicide rate (18.6 per 100,000 people) was among people 45 to 64 years old,” the foundation website reports. 

“The second highest rate (17.6 per 100,000 people) occurred in those 85 years and older. Younger groups have had consistently lower suicide rates than middle-aged and older adults. 

LIVES LOST

In 2010, adolescents and young adults aged 15 to 24 had a suicide rate of 10.5 (per 100,000 people).

However, a spate of suicides by young people around the North Country over the past year or so has heightened concern and prompted a number of awareness events.

Among them was the Backpack Project, put on recently in Plattsburgh by the Clinton County Coalition to Prevent Suicide with the National Alliance on Mental Illness: Champlain Valley and Behavioral Health Services North.

Sixty-eight used backpacks displayed at the recent event represented 68 student deaths by suicide, bringing home the impact of so many lost lives.

ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS

While mental illness contributes to the risk of suicide, the foundation clarifies that “the large majority of people with mental disorders or other suicide-risk factors do not engage in suicidal behavior.”

Risk factors do, however, cross economic, social, educational and religious boundaries.

And environmental influences heighten the risk. Among them, the foundation says, are:

▶ The incidence of highly stressful life event such as losing someone close. 

▶ Financial loss or trouble with the law. 

▶ Prolonged stress due to adversities such as unemployment, serious relationship conflict, harassment or bullying. 

▶ Exposure to another person’s suicide or to graphic or sensationalized accounts of suicide. 

▶ Access to lethal methods of suicide during a time of increased risk.

Out of the Darkness, open to all, and is a family-friendly event. 

Organizers have planned activities for children, a Remembrance Board to sign, a 50/50 drawing, raffle, music and refreshments.

Email Kim Smith Dedam: kdedam@pressrepublican.com

TO LEARN MORE: The Out of the Darkness Community Walk is free, though participants are encouraged to raise money via a donor drive posted online at: http://afsp.donordrive.com/event/northcountry. For more information, contact Deb Jerdo at northcountrywalk@gmail.com. To learn more about suicide prevention or find help, visit: www.afsp.org You can also find help: For counseling: Clinton County Mental Health, 565-4060. Behavioral Health Services North Adult Clinic, 563-8000 (staffed around the clock). Essex County Mental Health Clinic, 873-3670; after-hour emergencies, (888) 854-3773. In northern Franklin County, around the clock, 483-3261; southern Franklin County, 891-5535. For emotional crises: The toll-free Clinton County suicide hot line number is (866) 577-3836. Out-of-county calls are accepted but other options are: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, (800) 273-TALK (8255). The Essex County Mental Health Association Hope Line, (800) 440-8074. That last number is staffed 24-7, but the phone system handles limited calls. If there's no answer, hang up and try again. Or call 911 or go to your closest emergency room. Mary Anne Cox holds a Suicide Survivors Support Group in Plattsburgh the second Wednesday of the month. Register with her ahead of time at 563-1141.