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Suicide prevention forum is Thursday

A forum designed to help prevent suicide is scheduled for Thursday at First Baptist Church Brookhaven.

The Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Awareness Forum — co-sponsored by Junior Auxiliary of Brookhaven and National Alliance on Mental Illness Four Rivers MS — will be 6-8 p.m. and present information from speakers Molly Porter of Mississippi Department of Mental Health, Chris Huffman of Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Masey Bradley, a 19-year-old who will share teen perspectives on depression and suicidal thoughts. 

A panel of experts will also be present to help answer questions. The panel includes doctors, therapists and law enforcement — each able to offer unique perspectives and input.

Suicide prevention is a serious topic on the minds of many during September — National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. For others, it’s a daily consideration.

Suicide rates have increased in the United States by 30 percent over the past two decades, according to reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 41,000 people die by suicide annually, and victims are not limited by age, gender, ethnicity, or social or economic backgrounds.

According to NAMI, suicide is often the result of an untreated mental condition. Suicidal thoughts should not be considered normal. Everyone can benefit from honest conversations about mental health conditions and suicide — just one conversation can be the one that changes or saves a life.

Junior Auxiliary representative Stephanie Henderson spoke to the Brookhaven Board of Aldermen at their Sept. 3 meeting about suicide prevention.

Henderson shared reports from the CDC that one in every six students has considered suicide, one in every seven has created a plan to carry it out, one in every 14 has attempted suicide at least once, girls are three times more likely to attempt suicide and boys are four times more likely to be successful in an attempt.

“If we bring these numbers a little closer to home,” said Henderson, “in the state of Mississippi, suicide is the third leading cause of death for persons (age) 10-24. Every six days, one young person between the ages of 10 and 24 is lost to suicide.”

Unfortunately, Henderson added, research cannot take into account deaths that could have been suicides but were officially ruled “accidental.” She said the city leaders would be shocked to find out how many youth in area schools have identified themselves as having thoughts of suicide or having made a plan to take their own lives.

“These are the children that are going to our schools everyday, worshiping with us in church every Sunday and playing in our neighborhoods. These are our children,” said Henderson. “It is our hope that the event … will be a catalyst for change in the lives of so many people in this community.”

NAMI.org lists the following as warning signs of someone seriously considering suicide:

• Threats or comments about killing themselves, which can begin with seemingly harmless thoughts like “I wish I wasn’t here” but can become more overt and dangerous.

• Increased alcohol and drug use.

• Aggressive behavior.

• Social withdrawal from friends, family and community.

• Dramatic mood swings.

• Talking, writing or expressing thoughts about death.

• Impulsive or reckless behavior.

Anyone exhibiting the following behaviors should get care immediately:

• Putting their affairs in order and giving away possessions.

• Saying goodbye to friends and family.

• Mood shifts from despair to calm.

• Planning and possible looking to buy, steal or borrow tools needed to complete suicide, such as a firearm or prescription medication.

If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call 911 immediately. If you are in a crisis or experiencing difficult or suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255, or text NAMI at 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line.