MAYFIELD – Suicide happens every 13.7 minutes in the United States.
That statistic was discussed Thursday at a suicide prevention meeting at Mayfield High School.
Teachers, students and family members gathered at the auditorium to talk about the issue.
Members from 10 local suicide resource groups also attended to talk about the importance of identifying hints of suicidal behavior and what can be done to help people who show signs of depression.
Laura Marx, Capital Region area director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, started the discussion after Mayfield Junior High and High School Principal Rob Husain’s introduction.
Marx explained there are still a lot people with suicidal behavior who haven’t sought treatment. She said it is important as a friend, family member or peer to get help for a person who has warning signs.
“It’s always important to be there as a friend,” she said. ” … [If you need to], go behind their back. You need to get them help. Your friend might be mad at you, but you got them help.”
She said there is always help available at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255) because suicide prevention advisers know not everything happens from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Following Marx’s presentation, a six-person panel discussed their personal experiences with family members who had either died by suicide or expressed suicidal warning signs.
The panel consisted of Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane, who lost her father ,Kenneth Andersen, to suicide; Miss Fulton County 2013 Katelynn Smith, whose mom showed warning signs; Maryfran Fiorillo, who lost her son, Vincent; Zakk Delach and Kim Buchanan, who lost a brother and son Randy Delach; and Marianne Reid, who lost her brother John.
Fiorillo said she was happy the people who attended were there, but she was hoping more people would have attended.
She stressed the importance of knowing the signs and acting on them immediately.
“I never thought it was going to happen with my life,” Fiorillo said. “I’m telling you, it can happen with the flip of a switch. There are signs. Learn the signs … Mothers will have that gut feeling that something is wrong, and I had it twice. Act on that gut feeling.”
Smith said she missed the warning signs that her mom had shown, and said she was notified after taking a test at school that her mother had tried to commit suicide.
Since then, Smith has been a strong supporter of suicide prevention.
“My goal is to be Miss America, who promotes suicide prevention,” she said. “It astonishes me that there hasn’t been one yet … [Let them know] that there will be people who will support you. There will be people who will help you.”
Thane said she realized after her father had died by suicide that he was using alcohol as self-medication. She said she missed the warning signs.
She said it is great that there is so much help readily available regarding suicide prevention – a topic she said was “taboo” 40 years ago.
“It’s not something that you can snap someone out of. It’s not something that you can love someone out of,” she said. “But we have help now. We talk about it now … What’s different today is there are people to reach out to. There is medication, and we are having this discussion here today. … We all need to be courageous enough to talk about this.”
Thane also said suicide isn’t always a result of someone wanting to end his or her life or wanting to be dead. She said her father died by suicide because he wanted the pain to stop.
Delach was also happy that people were there discussing suicide Thursday because he said what irritates him the most is when people act like nothing ever happened.
“Why is everything else emphasized, but, like everyone else said, suicide is taboo?” he asked. “Why don’t we do more things like this?”
Reid showed the crowd the information on suicide numbers. They show 38,000 people die by suicide each year in the United States. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the nation. The numbers show 1,100 college students die by suicide each year in the U.S. New York is fourth in the nation in suicide deaths. The number of male suicides far exceeds the number of female suicides. In their lifetime, 60 percent of people will know someone who died by suicide.
Reid said the warning signs aren’t always the easiest to spot. Her brother was employed, happily married and was a happy father, she said.
“He was not a weak person. He was not acting on dark thoughts. He just wanted the pain to end,” Reid said. ” … I wish he had picked up the phone and called me. … You just need one reason to live.”