NEW BETHLEHEM – In order to continue their efforts to educate on the signs of suicide and where to find help, Clarion County mental health services and providers held an informational session for area residents on June 11 at Redbank Valley High School.
The informational Suicide Awareness event was sponsored in a collaborative effort by the Clarion County Coalition for Suicide Prevention, the Clarion Psychiatric Center, Roads to Recovery and the Center for Community Resources.
“Suicide affects all of us,” said Erin Wallace of the Center for Community Resources on the severity and extent of problem in the local area. “I bet everyone in this room knows someone who has attempted, committed or thought about suicide, or thought it themselves.”
According to Wallace, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, and the 11th leading cause of death in Pennsylvania.
“That means that one person every four hours dies from a completed suicide,” she explained. She noted that suicide is the second leading cause of death for Pennsylvanians ages 15 to 34; the fourth leading cause for 35- to 54-year-olds; and the eighth leading cause for 55- to 64-year-olds.
Wallace also pointed out that the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services requires every county in the state to have a telephone response for crisis available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Clarion County hotline can be reached by calling (814) 226-7223 or 1-800-292-3866; texting #63288; or by online chat.
In addition to the hotlines that are used for crisis situations, Wallace said that the Center for Community Resources also offers warmlines. A warmline is used in non-crisis situations and enables the caller to talk things through and seek additional help.
Another presenter was David Delvaux, a Clarion County Coalition for Suicide Prevention board member and employee of Clarion Psychiatric Center.
Offering statistics showing a doubling in the suicide rate in Clarion County from five deaths in 2017 to 10 in 2018, Delvaux stressed the importance of talking about suicide. He said that although some believe that talking to someone about suicide puts the idea in their mind, the fact is that they’ve already been thinking about it for quite some time.
“Suicide is the most preventable death out there,” he said, explaining that 90 percent of people who attempt and complete suicide suffer from some type of untreated depression or anxiety. “Depression is treatable. It just takes reaching out and offering some kind of hope in any way you can.”
Delvaux then spoke on the offerings of the Clarion Psychiatric Center.
Hailing Clarion Psych as one of the best psychiatric centers in the state, Delvaux pointed out the local facility’s direct admissions policy. This means that instead of having to begin with an emergency room visit, someone in need can come directly to the psychiatric center.
“Anytime you need our services, please call,” he said, adding that Clarion Psych also provides transportation to and from the facility. “We pride ourselves in direct admissions.”
The presenters also spoke in great length about the warning signs of suicide. According to the Clarion County Coalition for Suicide Prevention website, warning signs include: talking about wanting to die or kill oneself; looking for ways to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun; talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain; talking about being a burden to others; increasing the use of alcohol or drugs; acting anxious or agitated, or behaving recklessly; sleeping too little or too much; withdrawing or feeling isolated; showing rage or talking about seeking revenge; or displaying extreme mood swings.
“If you notice any of these warning signs, it’s important to act fast,” Delvaux said, noting that if someone is thinking about killing themself they will usually do it within four or five days. “Don’t put it off. Take action.”
Also in attendance at last week’s event were representatives from several health and human service providers — including Primary Health Network, SAFE, Spero Group Counseling, Laura Moore Counseling, Butler VA, Meadows Psychiatric Center in State College, Armstrong/Indiana/Clarion Drug and Alcohol Commission and Service Access Management Inc. — as well as officers from the New Bethlehem Police Department and Clarion County Coroner Randall Stom.
“Take advantage of these services that are available to you,” Stom said, noting his office often comes into play when such services are not utilized. “You have a wide variety or people who are out there to help. So please do what you can to help each other out.”