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September is Suicide Prevention Month

Suicide is one of the most taboo topics in our society and yet talking about it is one of the most important things we can do to prevent it. September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and many initiatives are occurring in Adams County to bring awareness of ways to prevent suicide.

Suicides have been increasing in Pennsylvania over the past several decades. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the last two years have seen a slight decrease. In Adams County, for example, there were 16 deaths in 2020 and 12 deaths in 2021. This year seems to be on par with last year’s numbers.

The majority of suicide deaths both nationally and in our county are among men over 45 with a gun in rural locations. Alcohol has often been consumed prior to the suicide.

Suicide a preventable death. Asking if a friend or loved one is considering killing themselves is very uncomfortable, but learning to be able to ask our friends and family and listen to them about suicide is important.

People who have tried to kill themselves and survived tell researchers that if someone had asked them what they were thinking about, it would have allowed them to share that they were having suicidal thoughts and they would have accepted help.

It is important to note that asking a person about their suicidal thoughts does not give them the idea. That is quite frankly a misinformed myth.

The Adams County Suicide Prevention Taskforce is taking several steps to increase local awareness of the problem and spread information about where to turn for help. On July 16, the federally mandated Crisis Lifeline 988 was launched. Individuals may use the 988 number to call, text, or chat at any time 24 hours a day. The area code of the phone used connects those reaching out to a local crisis line. Someone will be available on the other end of the line to respond to calls.

This lifeline is not just available to those who are considering killing themselves, but to those who are seeking help for their family and friends.

To spread awareness of this new 988 number, for the first time Healthy Adams County is partnering with Prevent Suicide PA to provide posters to many locations where people gather. The taskforce has shared information in the past during September by providing bars and restaurants with drink coasters that had the longer Suicide Prevention phone number. Local coffee shops, such as the Ragged Edge, has had cup sleeves with the previous helpline number in the past as well.

The new posters will again be offered to bars and restaurants as well as churches to post in discreet locations.

Because guns are often used in suicides, the taskforce also asks local gun shops to place posters in easily accessed locations. Most often the posters are placed in bathrooms where individuals can read the information without having to feel self-conscious.

An important new element of the posters that will be used this year is a QR code that will connect the information needed directly to a person’s phone. Users may directly call for help from the website. There is also a chat option that allows individuals to connect directly with a counselor. Cards containing the same information as the posters will also be distributed.

A feature of the 988 Crisis Lifeline site is the potential for special populations to connect to assistance specific to their needs. For example, Spanish resources are available from the top of the front page via the QR code. Likewise, the Veterans Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be accessed as well from the site or the 988 phone number.

Some county businesses have already agreed to incorporate digital ads into their closed-circuit TV programing. The ads are then worked into the TV loop to be viewed in offices and business locations. A variety of other businesses are currently being approached to include the video ad in their programing.

Schools have also been contacted to place posters. Gettysburg Area School District and the Littlestown School District have already expressed their desire to have posters available in their buildings.

In October a film on bullying sponsored by Healthy Adams County will be presented at the Majestic Theater. The film has a segment that brings focus to suicide. The date for this event is not yet set.

Finally, the county commissioners will be issuing a Suicide Prevention Proclamation on September 7 to proclaim September 2022 as “Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month.” The hope is that this will bring attention to county residents of the importance of prevention to reduce deaths from suicide.

Crisis Resources:

  • 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline; call or text 988; or to talk with someone over the computer visit 988lifeline.org/chat
  • Veterans Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 988, press 1
  • Spanish Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 988, press 2
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Margaret Swartz is a Licensed Psychologist in private practice with Yorlan Psychological Associates, York. She has been a therapist for over 30 years, starting her practice as an art therapist working with children in wrap-around programs. She also provided art therapy services to adolescents in various levels of juvenile detention. With a desire to build skills and level of competence, she completed a psychology doctorate (PsyD) in 2008 from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Her current practice is all via tele-health with older adolescents and adults. Dr. Swartz is a resident of Adams County and has been active with Healthy Adams County's Behavioral Health Task Force and Suicide Prevention Task Force for the past 14 years.

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