2018-09-17 / News

Walk shines light on suicide prevention

By Margaret Whitmer
Contributing Writer


This display on the Sanilac County Courthouse lawn is one of several around the county promoting the Walk for Suicide Awareness and Remembrance event Friday, Sept. 21, 6 p.m., at Maple Valley School, 138 Maple Valley St., Sandusky. Photo by Eric Levine This display on the Sanilac County Courthouse lawn is one of several around the county promoting the Walk for Suicide Awareness and Remembrance event Friday, Sept. 21, 6 p.m., at Maple Valley School, 138 Maple Valley St., Sandusky. Photo by Eric Levine SANDUSKY —Suicide has surged to the highest national level in nearly 30 years, according to federal data analysis.

But Sanilac residents can help increase awareness of the problem by joining the third annual Bringing Light to the Darkness Suicide Remembrance Walk.

When you walk, you join thousands across the nation to raise awareness and funds so the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) can invest in research, create educational programs, advocate for public policy, and support the survivors of suicide loss.

September has been named Suicide Prevention Month by Sanilac County Community Mental Health.

The event starts at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21, in Maple Valley School, Sandusky. It opens with a short presentation by Joshua Rivard, who will share his story of loss, grief and healing as he biked from Florida to Seattle and what he discovered about mental health along the way.

Immediately after, participants will walk to the Sanilac County Courthouse for a luminary lighting ceremony to honor lives lost to suicide. The luminaries will stay lit through the nighttime hours.

Large memorial displays have also been set up in Lexington and Croswell that represent lives lost in those areas by suicide.

“The reason we chose the locations of the displays is because that corner of the county is where the majority of our suicides have occurred in the last couple of years,” said organizer Laura Johnson.

There also is an “empty chair” display on the courthouse lawn and another display will travel between Croswell, Port Sanilac, Deckerville and Brown City. The displays represent lives lost by suicide in the county.

Exact statistics for the county are hard to obtain.

“It is difficult to give an exact number,” said Johnson. “We monitor through the coroner’s report after a suicide has occurred.”

Sometimes a victim is taken to a hospital outside of the county.

“Then it becomes that county’s suicide,” Johnson said. “A more accurate picture is how many attempts are made and unfortunately we don’t have anything in place for tracking that.”

Sanilac averages about six suicides a year, although it has been as high as 12, she said.

Statewide, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death. On average, one person dies every seven hours in Michigan. It is the second leading cause of death for ages 15-34; the third leading cause of death for ages 10-14; the fourth for ages 55-64; and the 19th for ages 65 and older.

While some symptoms are obvious - like talking about feeling hopeless and having no reason to live - others are subtle. A person may change their habits, begin to isolate themselves, stay away from friends or start giving away their possessions.

Drug and alcohol use may increase. A person may sleep more - or less - or display extreme mood swings.

If you suspect someone may be considering suicide, it doesn’t hurt to check in a caring way. Invite the person out for coffee and lend a caring ear.

You can call the Sanilac County Access Crisis Line, 888- 225-4447 to learn more about how you can help, and pass the number along to the person.

There also is a national text line, 741-741, where a crisis worker will carry on a conversation with the person by text. “People don’t always want to talk about it,” said Johnson. “Sometimes people don’t want to call locally.”

If a real voice is needed, the national hotline is 1-800-273- TALK.

If you want to improve your active listening skills and learn more about how to help someone experiencing a mental health issue or crisis, you can sign up for a free Mental Health First Aid class. Classes are scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 18 (youth module) and Saturday, Sept. 29 (adult module). Contact Johnson at 810-583- 0403 for more information.

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