Suicide Prevention Coalition aims to increase awareness
By Stephanie Salmons Messenger-Inquirer Aug 20, 2015
Mike Flaherty, president of the Owensboro Regional Suicide Prevention Coalition, says the best way to reach people on a personal level is in their communities.
According to the organization’s website, orspc.org, the coalition “works to prevent the tragedy of suicide and the consequences for those affected.”
“I think when you’re talking about community health, you can’t leave mental health and suicide prevention out of that conversation,” Flaherty said. “… When you work side by side with your neighbors, I think you make a greater impact.”
The nonprofit group formally incorporated in 2007, but got its start when a task force of community leaders formed in 2004, out of a support group for survivors of suicide started by Bob Robey, Flaherty said.
“He (Robey) saw a need to move beyond a support group for survivors and look at a community initiative that focused on prevention also,” said Flaherty.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide was the second leading cause of death of people between the ages of 15 and 34 in 2013, the fourth among those between ages of 35 and 54, the eighth for those between the ages of 55 and 64 and the 17th for individuals 65 and older.
It was the 10th leading cause of death across all ages.
Per the CDC, in the U.S., more than 41,000 people killed themselves in 2013 and more than 494,000 people with self-inflicted injuries were treated in emergency departments.
“Suicides result in an estimated $44.6 billion in combined medical and work loss costs,” a CDC fact sheet states.
Worldwide, those numbers are greater.
According to a World Health Organization report, more than 800,000 people die each year by suicide worldwide, or one person every 40 seconds.
And, while men are about four times more likely than women to die from suicide, women are more likely to express suicidal thoughts and to make nonfatal attempts than men, according to the information provided by the CDC.
The local coalition board meets monthly to brainstorm ideas on how to further suicide prevention.
One way they do that is through education, Flaherty said.
The group provides prevention training within the community, he said, and each year has a dual conference, the first night of which features a public discussion while the second day provides training for mental health professionals.
And because, said Flaherty, middle-aged individuals — especially men — have been one of the “fastest growing demographics of completed suicide,” as a new initiative, the group will be reaching out to businesses to “hopefully get them interested in looking at providing suicide prevention strategies in the workplace and to their employees.”
Suicide Prevention Week is Sept. 7-13 while World Suicide Prevention Day is Sept. 10.
Prior to its observance, the coalition will hold its eighth annual Owensboro Life Savers Walk Sept. 5.
Registration opens at 9 a.m. Sept. 5 at the Owensboro Health Healthpark, 1006 Ford Ave., with the walk starting at 10 a.m.
It’s free to participate, but donations will be accepted.
Flaherty said the walk, which will honor Robey this year, aims to honor those who have committed suicide and provide support for their families “in recognition of that struggle,” as well as provide public education.
“Before, no one talked about breast cancer or domestic violence,” he said. “You have to have conversations about those things in order to develop strategies to intervene. By talking openly about mental health issues and the tragedy of suicide, we will hopefully bring about positive changes and increased focus on intervention.”
Anyone who is thinking about suicide should contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or the Owensboro Area Crisis Line at 800-433-7291.
For more information about the suicide prevention coalition, visit orspc.org.
Stephanie Salmons, 270-691-7302, [email protected]