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Stop the stigma; don’t keep quiet about suicide

To the editor:

As September draws to a close, we should all take time to reflect on the important issue of national suicide prevention and awareness, observed annually during this month.

Suicides occur in our small Adirondack communities, leaving in their wake understandable grief and emotional difficulty. Someone in this country dies by suicide every 12 minutes, with nearly 45,000 Americans dying each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19 has increased depression in the world and country, and thus given us another reason to consider the seriousness of suicide as a major health concern.

Suicide is one of those topics that many people feel uncomfortable talking about, yet it’s prevalent throughout our society. Because of the stigma regarding mental illness, people are often afraid to talk about it and usually don’t bring up if they have thoughts of hurting themselves. We can prevent suicide by reducing the stigma and being available to listen.

People may be afraid to approach a friend or loved one over concerns they may be experiencing suicidal thoughts for various reasons. They may fear that asking someone could cause a person to harm themselves. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, talking about suicide reduces the stigma and can help save lives. Some signs that a person may be suicidal include sudden changes in moods and behaviors, increased alcohol use or drug use, and becoming more isolated or withdrawn.

Many of us, if not all, have had low points in our lives, however, managing these struggles is very possible with the wide array of help that is available locally. Having worked as a counselor for Citizen Advocates for 13 years, suicide is a topic that I address with clients on a daily basis.

If you know of someone struggling with thoughts of suicide, or if you are wrestling with suicidal thoughts yourself, please know that professional help is available. Here are some resources to call 24/7:

¯ National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

¯ Citizen Advocates Behavioral Health Clinic: 518-891-5535

¯ Citizen Advocates Crisis Center (24/7): 518-481-8160.

The Franklin County Suicide Prevention Coalition is a group of members from various community agencies that meets monthly to find ways to address suicide. We offer a Suicide Loss Survivors group that meets the third Wednesday of every month to help support people who have lost loved ones, and have provided informational literature at various community events. For more information on this group, contact Franklin County Community Services at 518-891-2280.

Don’t be afraid to have these difficult conversations. Undo the stigma, and help to save lives.

Fritz Wenzler, LMHC

Lake Placid

(Note: September is National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month. Fritz Wenzler is a licensed mental health counselor for Citizen Advocates, at its Behavioral Health Clinic in Saranac Lake, and a member of the Franklin County Suicide Prevention Coalition.)

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