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Suicide Prevention Work Aims to Create Open Dialogue, Save Lives

By Assemblyman Will Barclay
America was shocked and saddened when news of Robin Williams’ death hit last month. The iconic actor and comedian that made his fame making others laugh sadly took his own life. Many questions arose following his death and many counselors reminded us that even those with fame and fortune are not immune to suicidal tendencies and the mental illness which often triggers suicide.

Williams suffered from major depression. I wanted to highlight some of the symptoms of major depression, and to provide some resources for readers who want to learn more about preventing suicide with the column this week.

Major depression, according to the New York State Office of Mental Health (NYSOMH), is “characterized by a combination of symptoms that interfere with a person’s ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy once–pleasurable activities. Major depression is disabling and prevents a person from functioning normally.

An episode of major depression may occur only once in a person’s lifetime, but more often, it recurs throughout a person’s life.”

More information and resources can be found here: https://www.omh.ny.gov/omhweb/booklets/depression.htm

While we can’t bring our loved ones back, we can work to help someone from making the same choice. September is Suicide Awareness Prevention Month.

The month is dedicated to raising awareness about its prevalence, to create an open dialogue about suicide, and encourage people to reach out.

According to the latest data available on the New York State Office of Mental Health’s website, in the last three years: 119 suicides were reported in Onondaga County; 46 were reported in Oswego; and 48 were reported in Jefferson county. In 2011, there was an increase in suicides in both Onondaga and Oswego counties.

According to a recent report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, death by suicide surpassed death by motor vehicle crashes in 2010.

In 2010, there were 38,364 suicides in the U.S., an average of 105 each day. One is too many. And many, many others attempt suicide.

This fall, local groups are working to raise awareness about suicide’s many effects and provide support to families. Out of the Darkness walk will take place again this year at Long Branch Park in Liverpool. This is sponsored by the Central New York American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and takes place on Oct. 11 at 10 a.m. Another walk will take place on Nov. 22 in Watertown at Flower Memorial Library, 229 Washington St., Watertown.

These events help survivors cope with losing a loved one to suicide by letting them connect with others in a similar situation and remember their family and friends together.

To register, visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website’s local chapter at http://www.afsp.org/local-chapters/local-chapters-listed-by-state/new-york/afsp-central-new-york.

In Oswego County, on Sept. 20, several people will collect at the SUNY Oswego Morano Center Food Court through SAVE, Suicide Awareness Voices of Education. To register, email [email protected] Both a walk and a run will be offered and registration starts at 9 a.m.

The New York State Office of Mental Health developed a free app titled “Safety Plan.” It’s designed to remind people to select a coping method which ranges from listening to music to seeking professional help. To download, visit https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/safety-plan/id695122998?mt=8.

The State Office of Mental Health funds the Suicide Prevention Center of New York. Their efforts center around education and training to reduce suicide attempts. They maintain a 24-hour hotline in partnership with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-877-273-TALK. The public may also contact the agency to be connected with the right services locally at 518-402-9122 or visit http://www.preventsuicideny.org

In Oswego County, residents may also call the Oswego Hospital Behavioral Services Division’s 24-hour hotline at (315) 343-8162 for mental health help. In Onondaga County, residents may call (315) 251-0600.

In Jefferson County, that number is 315-782-2327.

You may also contact your doctor’s office for advice or help accessing local services.

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 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.