The Suicide Prevention Coalition of Logan and Champaign County held its annual Champaign County Suicide Awareness Ceremony Friday at Urbana University.
The ceremony honored Champaign County residents who lost their lives to suicide while offering support and healing for the friends and families of people who have lost someone to suicide.
Susie Sassenberg, Urbana University Director of Student Counseling and Wellness and coalition member, said Champaign County lost 10 lives to suicide in 2015, an increase from the one reported suicide death in 2014.
“The Suicide Prevention Coalition wants people in our community to know that their are local resources available for those struggling with suicide,” Sassenberg said. “Whether you yourself are struggling or you know someone who is struggling, we have a local 24/7 crisis hotline that’s available to help those struggling or those who need to know how to access help for others.”
Sassenberg spoke about some of the services the coalition provides including prevention services, educational opportunities and postvention services.
Dr. David Higgins, executive director of the Mental Health, Drug and Alcohol Services (MHDAS) Board of Logan and Champaign Counties, stressed the importance of talking to people who look depressed.
“When you don’t, they become more depressed, they have nobody to talk to and what we see in our communities is suicide is a continuing struggle,” Higgins said. “It reaches us, it has an impact on us every year, every month, every day it affects us, it affects your families, it affects your friends, it affects people at the job.
“You heard earlier that we had 10 documented suicides in Champaign County, we’ve had 11 documented suicides in Logan County for 2015. The reason I say documented is we know that five to 25 percent of all suicides go unreported so we don’t have a true picture of how many suicides there are.”
Higgins added for every 25 attempted suicides there is one completed suicide and the older a person is the more likely they are to be successful in a completed suicide. He said statistics also show six out of seven people who receive help never attempt suicide again.
A program Higgins said the MHDAS board offers is mental health first aid which teaches people how to help someone who is depressed or needs help. He said the program is available to any group in both counties.
“We know that if you talk to somebody and get them help, they’re more likely to get better,” Higgins said. “Our goal is to have zero suicides – it takes everybody in this room and all of your friends to reach this goal. You have to get comfortable with talking to your friends when they’re not doing well.”
During the ceremony, attendees also listened to Mindy Groves, a member of the coalition and the Local Outreach to Survivors of Suicide (LOSS) team which responds to the scenes of suicides when activated by the coroner or law enforcement.
Groves shared the story of her own attempted suicide as a teenager and losing her brother to suicide in March 2012. Following her brother’s death, Groves said she struggled with bouts of depression and anger.
“I got some counseling through the suicide coalition and I think one of the things that helped me the most during that time was I got a packet from the suicide coalition,” Groves said. “In that packet it gives you stages of grief. I didn’t know what I was feeling or when I was feeling it – that packet really helped me to understand what I was going through and that it was okay and everything I was feeling was okay.”
Groves said serving on the LOSS team has helped her heal.
“Just being able to help someone else just to understand,” Groves said. “I may not feel what they felt but I understand their loss and I truly believe today that God uses every part of it, good and bad, that suicide, everything for his glory and to help others.”
Friday’s event marked the final activity the coalition has held this month in both counties as part of Suicide Prevention and Awareness month. Other events the coalition has held this month included a suicide and risk management training for mental health providers and clinicians, a color 5K at Ohio Caverns where over 100 people participated, and an awareness ceremony in Logan County.
The coalition holds meetings on the first Tuesday of every month at 3 p.m. at the MHDAS board office, 1521 N. Detroit St., West Liberty.
The 24/7 crisis hotline is available at 1-800-224-0422.
Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.