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Suicide prevention: Working together to save lives

By From page A3 | September 06, 2017

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

“For anyone who has lost a friend or loved one to suicide, this month can be especially hard,” said Laura Walny, manager with the El Dorado County Health and Human Services Agency. “We hope that by supporting one another and working together to raise awareness about suicide, we can ultimately save lives.”

It is estimated that one in five people in the United States is now living with a mental health condition and one in 25 has a serious mental illness. Many more people may go undiagnosed or have temporary bouts of depression. Half of all lifetime mental health conditions begin by age 14 and 75 percent by age 24, but early intervention programs can help. That’s why reaching out is important, according to Walny.

In El Dorado County nearly 350 people died from suicide between 2005 and 2015. Community agencies, organizations and individuals in El Dorado County are committed to working together on community outreach and education campaigns to inform residents about suicide prevention and to reduce stigma around mental health issues, Walny said.

El Dorado County HHSA and its Behavioral Health Division partners with the El Dorado County Mental Health Commission, National Alliance on Mental Illness and contracted service providers including Minds Moving Forward and South Lake Tahoe Youth and Family Services to increase awareness about mental health issues.

“Coming together as a community is integral to any effective outreach campaign and we greatly appreciate these partnerships,” said Walny.

In addition to local organizations Walny emphasizes the importance of family members, friends, caregivers and healthcare providers being informed and involved.

“Everyone should be aware of this issue, know the risks and signs, and have tools to offer support,” said Walny.

HHSA supports the national Know the Signs campaign through suicideispreventable.org – “Know the Signs, Find the Words, Reach Out.”

The most critical warning signs of suicide are:

  • Talking about wanting to die or about suicide
  • Feeling hopeless, desperate, trapped
  • Increased drug or alcohol use
  • Withdrawal, anxiety or agitation or changes in sleep
  • Putting affairs in order or giving away possessions
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • No sense of purpose

“If you are concerned that someone is severely depressed or suicidal don’t ignore those feelings,” said Walny. “Talk to them. Ask direct questions. Listen. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255, the Friendship Line at (800) 971-0016 or the Crisis Text Line 741-741and talk or text with a trained counselor who can offer support and assistance.”

The El Dorado County Behavioral Health Division also offers free trainings on suicide prevention, and operates a 24-hour mental health crisis line at (530) 622-3345 in Placerville and at (530) 544-2219 in South Lake Tahoe for residents experiencing a mental health crisis. In an emergency call 911.

For general information about El Dorado County Behavioral Health’s services, call (530) 621-6290 in Placerville or (530) 573-7970 in South Lake Tahoe. More information can also be found online at edcgov.us/mentalhealth.

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