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Suicide prevention is topic of Franklin County forum

BRUSHTON — Inside the United Methodist Church last Tuesday, they weren’t praying. Instead, they were talking about ways to prevent suicide.

Lee Rivers, co-chair of the Franklin County Suicide Prevention Coalition, hosted a community forum to talk about what the coalition does and what members of the community can do to help save a life.

“We need to let people that are having suicidal thoughts know that it is OK to get help,” said Rivers. “Don’t worry about what other people think of you.”

The coalition is a program within Community Connections, where Rivers is also the executive director. The mission of the coalition is to “educate the community about suicide risk factors, in an effort to increase the ability to recognize the warning signs and intervene when someone is suicidal and promote the use of supports and resources throughout our region.”

About a dozen residents attended the event, many of them asking questions about how many people in Northern New York are affected by suicide.

Rivers says he does not have the suicide numbers for Franklin County but with help of the county Health Department they are hoping to get some data for next year.

From relationship problems to financial struggles, Rivers says the reasons why people complete suicide can vary.

He says suicide can also happen if someone has gone though a drastic lifestyle change.

“You find that they had it all and then they lost it all and now they do not know how to live,” said Rivers.

Rivers said it is also important to look for signs, like if someone is giving away all their valuable possessions.

He said the best thing someone can do is talk about what they are going through and admit that they need help.

“It is OK to get help, and I am not ashamed to say that I have seen counselors,” said Rivers.

Having life struggles is something that Rivers himself knows all too well.

“I have lived with depression every day of my life. I have been diagnosed with anxiety and I have lived through a nervous breakdown,” said Rivers.

At first, Rivers admitted, he was ashamed, but now says he not anymore because it is a part of him; he encouraged residents to do the same.

“It is OK, it is a part of life and it happens to millions of people,” said Rivers.

He also says it is important to surround yourself with people who are true friends.

“Years ago I had a friend who said to me, ‘I feel embarrassed around this certain group of friends because of the way I dress and the car I drive,’ and I said, “Then they are not friends,'” said Rivers.

At Community Connections, he said, there is no judgment, only support, even at times helping people with the unspoken word.

“I have seen someone in the hallway crying and I just hugged them and brought them into my office, it is important to help them right then and there,” said Rivers.

Personal struggles are something that Pastor Carl Chamberlin also knows about. Two of his four sons struggled with depression and early in life he lost a friend in high school to suicide.

“One of the kids that rode the school bus with me, he had changed school districts. Within six month they found him hanging in his hay barn,” Chamberlin said. “That was my first experience with suicide.”

At Community Connections, they are also trying to erase the stigma surrounding suicide.

“If someone lost a friend or family member to suicide, it never was discussed. Today we need to talk about it,” said Rivers. People need to be able to talk about their emotions.”

Within the next few months, Rivers said, a task force will be formed to help loved ones affected by suicide.

“They will be trained volunteers that will be able to go out into the community 24-7 if someone dies by suicide and family members need support or where they work needs support, we will go out and offer that support,” said Rivers.

Now more than ever around the holiday season, he said, it is important to offer help to those in need.

“The holidays are a rough time for people, they can be a very rough time. For some people it could be because they lost a loved one this year,” said Rivers.

Having lost his brother recently, he said it is something he knows about all too well.

For people who might be at risk of suicide, the North Star Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day at 518-483-2361 or you can text “Hello” to 741741.

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