Groups in area working to stop suicide

Adolescence is never an easy time for anyone, and tragedy can strike when a teenager or young adult’s thoughts turn to suicide.

From 1991 to 2011, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recorded the national trends in the prevalence of suicide-related behaviors through the national Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

The surveyors found the number of students in grades nine to 12 who have considered attempting suicide and have made a plan on how they would attempt it had decreased (from 29 percent to 15.8 percent, and 18.6 percent to 12.8 percent respectively).

However, the number of students who attempted suicide one or more times – along with the number who had a suicide attempt result in injury, poisoning or an overdose that had to be treated by a doctor or nurse – had increased (from 7.3 percent to 7.8 percent and 1.7 percent to 2.4 percent respectively)

The HFM Prevention Council, based in Johnstown – and schools throughout Fulton, Hamilton and Montgomery counties – want students, teenagers and young adults to know there is always someone to talk to when they’re experiencing difficult times.

Kathy Cromie, chairwoman of the Fulton-Montgomery Suicide Task Force, said helping these groups realize there are people to talk to is vital.

“One of the most important things for people to understand is with help, things can get better,” Cromie said. “There is hope for them. Whether they talk to someone in their family or by talking to a professional, they can get the help that they need. We want them to know that there are people that care, that will help.”

One way HFM Prevention counselors have offered help is by partnering with the Fulton-Montgomery Suicide Task Force to help the counties’ teenagers and young adults and by spreading the word about the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Lifeline, as it is often referred to, has 161 crisis centers throughout the United States – including 10 in New York. A center can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Margaret Clark, prevention educator at HFM Prevention, said joining with the task force allows them to receive information and training to assist with their mission. They also work with youth commissions in both counties.

Clark said the fact suicide exists makes it a problem worth assisting with.

“It is something that we want at zero percent, and anything above that is prevalent,” she said. “… It doesn’t just affect the family. It affects the whole community.”

Robin Lair, of Mayfield Central School District’s Suicide Prevention Task Force, has organized a town hall meeting at Mayfield High School to discuss suicide prevention, education and awareness with the community.

Lair said this isn’t just for members of the Mayfield community, and she wants all interested parties to attend.

“What we would love is to have people from Fulton, Montgomery and Hamilton counties attend – not just members of this school – and learn about why suicide prevention is important and learn about what they can [do to] prevent suicide,” she said.

The town hall meeting will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 28.

The Suicide Prevention Task Force is made up of students, staff and the community and is just another way Lair and the district officials are bringing more awareness to the issue.

“Any student who is having suicidal thoughts here at Mayfield would talk to any adult here because we had the entire staff trained in safe talk,” Lair said. “Basically, we listen, show that we care. We ask directly, ‘Are you trying to kill yourself?’ That’s important. Then we try and hook them up with a mental health professional.”

The New York state Office of Mental Health also is involved and has its own Lifeline program that trains community service providers and teachers to become educated in suicide prevention efforts, Cromie explained. The program develops very specific plans and guidelines so these community members are ready.

Cromie said she believes adolescent problems have changed for today’s youth, and preparing parents, teachers and other members of the community has helped combat that change.

“I think for youth in general, it’s a much tougher time growing up,” she said. “We hope that parents are involved, and we hope that parents are talking to their kids. In this age with digital media, that changes the family dynamic.”