Education, Awareness Can Work to Offset Suicide Rate

By Assemblyman Will Barclay (R-Pulaski)

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people and the eleventh leading cause of death for the general population. More than 34,000 suicides occurred in the U.S. in 2007—the equivalent of 94 suicides per day. Approximately 1,300 New Yorkers take their own lives each year, and it is estimated that for every suicide death, there are anywhere from 8-25 suicide attempts.

It is a sad and tragic way to die and loved ones are often left feeling conflicted, angry, sad and guilty along with their grief. The good news is that in recent years, individuals and community groups have begun to organize to raise awareness about suicide and, hopefully, help prevent it from claiming so many lives. Addressing suicide as a public health concern also enables loved ones of suicide victims to break the silence and diminishes the stigma attached to mental health disorders.

We don’t know when suicide will strike or with whom so it’s important to know the signs. It is said as many as one in six people will have serious suicidal thoughts. Many resources are available to help. At the Suicide for the Prevention of Teen Suicide website, there is a compelling video that parents can watch entitled “Not My Kid: What Every Parent Should Know.” It shows interviews with parents who lost children to suicide. These parents say that information and education are key components to suicide prevention. This video can be seen at The video encourages parents to notice changes and if they do see significant behavioral changes, to treat their child as they would any kind of physical concern and seek professional treatment.

Here are some other possible warning signs according to the Suicide for the Prevention of Teen Suicide website:

· Statements that convey a sense of hopelessness, worthlessness, or preoccupation with death (“Life doesn’t seem worth it sometimes”; “I wish I were dead”; “Heaven’s got to be better than this”)

· Behaviors which are different from the way your child acted in the past, especially things like talking about death or suicide, taking dangerous risks, withdrawing from activities or sports, or using alcohol or drugs.

· Feelings that, again, seem different from the past like irritability, anxiety, sadness, hopelessness, loss of interest

· Situations that can serve as ‘trigger points’ for suicidal behaviors. These include things like loss or death, getting in trouble at home, in school, or with the law, or impending changes for which your child feels scared or unprepared.

New York State Office of Mental Health distributes Suicide Prevention Education and Awareness Kits and recently launched a statewide public education and awareness program that is a part of New York’s larger suicide prevention effort. By learning when, where and how to speak up and seek help for oneself or others, prevention is possible. Often, depression triggers suicidal thoughts so it is important to know the signs of depression as well. More information is available at

The bottom line is if you or someone you know is suicidal, it’s important to reach out. It can be the first step toward healing. Locally, there are places such as Contact Syracuse in Onondaga County which can be reached at (315) 251-0600. In Oswego County, residents are urged to call the Oswego Hospital Behavioral Services Division 24-Hour Hotline at (315) 343-8162. Statewide, anyone can call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) (or the TTY line at 800-799-4889). If you would like a referral to a mental health specialist, contact your insurance company for a list of qualifying mental health specialists that match your plan or contact your primary care provider for help finding one nearby. You may also visit the State’s Suicide Prevention web site for more resources at

There will be an Out of the Darkness walk at SUNY Oswego on Oct. 2 to raise awareness about suicide victims and educate the public about suicide prevention locally. There will also be an Out of the Darkness walk at Longbranch Park in Liverpool on Oct. 9. Registration begins at 9 and the walk begins at 11 a.m. for both walks. More information, donation and registration information can be found at

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.