By Gordon Clay

In 2015, some 44,193 Americans took their own lives leaving behind thousands of friends and family members to navigate the tragedy of their loss. Another 500,000 Americans received medical care for self-inflicted injuries and another 500,000 are estimated to have an unrecorded attempt.

Nationally, one in four adults and one in five youths suffer from a mental illness, 50 percent of which occurred before age 14 and 75 percent before 24. The great majority of these people do not die by suicide. However, of those who die from suicide, more than 90 percent had a diagnosable mental disorder.

Suicide is one of the leading causes of preventable death. Yet since 2007, the rate has doubled among children 10-14 and the suicide rate among older teenage girls hit a 40-year high in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

California ranks 45th nationally in deaths by suicide and suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 25-34 and the third leading cause for 10-24 year olds. Suicides in Del Norte County are almost two and a half times that of the average California county.

Putting this in perspective, within any typical classroom, it is likely that three students (one boy and two girls) have attempted suicide in the past year.

We lose more than 800 people each week to a tragedy that can be prevented. To change this situation, we must “Break the Silence” and start openly talking about mental health and suicide so that those who are battling with depression and anxiety and many of the symptoms of suicidality will see that it’s OK to talk about it and ask for help. Almost everyone has a story about suicide, someone they know or their own experience, if they’re comfortable enough with you about it.

This past year in an effort to reduce the stigma around the issue, TheCitizensWhoCare.org distributed over 15,000 semicolon buttons and 9,000 wallet cards which provide information and crisis phone and text numbers at 150 public locations throughout Curry and Del Norte counties. Go to http://bit.ly/2xkQPQt to find a list of these participants.

It is important to understand the importance of the 741741 crisis text line and what it does that isn’t available from crisis phone lines.

The Crisis Text Line 741741 is like most other text and phone crisis lines in that it’s confidential and staffed with trained counselors available 24/7 nationally.

But what does the Crisis Text Line offer that crisis phone lines and some crisis text lines do not.

The system generates algorithms from over 45 million previous texts on everything the texter sends, which helps counselors ask more pertinent follow-up questions and comments.

The texter doesn’t talk so no one hears what is said and when observing a dangerous situation, attention isn’t drawn to the person texting for help. Just text 741741 “Need 911” or text anything else to start the process.

Texting supports mute people who can receive access to crisis intervention as well.

The entire conversation remains on the texter’s cell phone for future reference.

It’s easy to remember: 741741

This year our September Suicide Prevention and Awareness program features a yellow wristband with 741741 debossed in it. Similar to the semicolon buttons, it lets others know that you’re willing to listen.

Some schools are providing their students with these wrist bands and the public can sign a pledge and get one at City Hall in Brookings, Crescent City and Gold Beach and the public library in Crescent City, Port Orford and Smith River.

To celebrate World Suicide Prevention Weekend, Crescent City Tatt N Glass, 225 H St., Crescent City, will offer a free semicolon tattoo on Sept. 9 and on Sept. 10 it’s The Towne Buzz Tattoo & Art Studio at 16211 W Hoffeldt Lane in Harbor.

Sept. 30 will feature the first SOS: Symposium on Suicide entitled “Breaking the Silence” to bring major stakeholders together who hold a piece of the suicide puzzle in Curry County. Each will discuss their part of the puzzle. Panelists include Ginny Razo, CEO, Curry Health Network; Erin Porter, Curry Community Health Behavioral Health; Sheriff John Ward; Tim Wilson, principal of Gold Beach High School; Kurt Rossbach, suicide prevention coordinator, VA Roseburg Healthcare System; Dorothy Wait, Community of Family Services director, Tolowa Dee-ni Nation; David Brock-Smith, Oregon House of Representatives; Vicar Bernie Lindley, St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church; and Scott Graves, editor, Curry Coastal Pilot.

The event will is 3 p.m.-5 p.m. at the Chetco Public Library.

Gordon Clay is with the suicide prevention organization Zero Attempts and can be reached at www.ZeroAttempts.org

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