“You are not alone”, local health professionals raise awareness about suicide prevention


SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – In the past five years, nearly 240 people in Chatham County have committed suicide, according to data from the state’s health department.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and local health professionals are working to raise awareness and break down the stigma surrounding mental health.

Psychiatrists at Gateway Behavioral Health say that daily behavioral changes, isolation, sadness and loss of appetite can be warning signs of suicidal thoughts.

If you see these signs in someone you know, experts say to check with them.

“A very common misconception about suicide and mental health in general is that if you ask someone it will make them more likely to hurt themselves, to kill themselves,” said Dr. Carolyn Akin. “In reality, this is not the case. It actually creates the sense of connection that makes them want to engage, stay, and keep going. “

Doctors want people to know that there is no shame in seeking help from a mental health professional.

“Mental illness is often stigmatized,” said Dr. Kristen Williams. “But, if you had diabetes and had another ongoing medical crisis, you wouldn’t be ashamed to see your doctor and talk about it.”

Health professionals say they have seen an increase in mental health problems, including depression and anxiety, during the pandemic.

“In the age of the pandemic, anyone can understand that it is very easy to feel isolated and alone and how quickly those feelings can change,” said Dr Akin.

Vira Salzburn, program director for Prevent Suicide Today, said there has also been an increase in mental health issues among high school students, young African American men and veterans.

In Chatham County, suicide is one of the leading causes of death for people between the ages of 10 and 44, according to data from the state’s health department.

“Suicide prevention is everyone’s business,” said Salzburn. “It really takes a village to prevent suicide. It is generally said that it takes a village to save a child from suicide. And each of us is this child and we are all this village.

Prevent Suicide Today offers prevention programs as well as intervention training. As of 2017, more than 13,000 community members – including school district staff – have received intervention training from the organization, Salzburn said.

Salzburn encourages those with mental health issues to connect with others.

“What really drove me to this job is a deep understanding of loneliness and how isolation and shame can really create darkness and emptiness in our hearts,” he said. she declared. “We really want to spread hope and let people know that you are not alone and that help is available.”

The Gateway Behavioral Health Crisis Center on Avenue E. Derenne is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, providing crisis response to people of all ages.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 9-8-8 or 800-273-8255. You can also call the Georgia Crisis and Access Line at 1-800-715-4225.

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