Published: Aug 31, 2023 03:00 PM

Every suicide is preventable.

Let that sink in for a moment as we usher in September, when mental health organizations and individuals across the US and around the world raise awareness of suicide prevention during National Suicide Prevention Month.

According to the Connecticut Suicide Advisory Board (CSAB), this major public health problem has far-reaching personal, social, and economic implications. Despite increased awareness, research, funding, and national agendas, suicide deaths have been rising, without pause, since 1999.

In 2022, Newtown experienced several, and statewide we saw more than one per day (388) including suicides in the age range of 10 (...yes, 10!) to age 24 topping three dozen (37). Today, deaths by suicide outnumber those by both homicide and motor vehicle accidents, and suicide is still robbing us of some of our most promising young people.

For every suicide death, CSAB points out we lose the unique gifts of the individual who has died. But its ripple effect has a broad impact across space and time — every suicide creates dozens of loss survivors, who suffer immense pain and complex grief, and are at greater risk of suicide themselves.

While the massive promotion behind the 2022 launch of 988 as the national emergency suicide prevention hotline has made a measurable impact connecting those most desperate with help — here in Newtown, we should all play a role by making our loved ones, friends, and especially our teens and college age children aware they are never alone in their deepest sorrow.

If you are still among those thinking suicide is not really a problem here, or that 988 is not needed, consider the latest from CTMirror’s Data Reporter José Luis Martínez.

Since July 2022, when 988 was formally launched nationally, Connecticut logged 36,470 calls from residents — an average of about 3,000 calls per month, marking a 62 percent increase from the previous year, where the state received over 22,000 calls, an average of about 1,800 calls a month.

Of those 36,000+ calls received, 93 percent were answered in-state, fielded by 34 full-time trained specialists along with additional part-time and per diem staff. Locally, our Newtown Emergency Telecommunicators, EMS volunteers, and police officers also handled their fair share of crisis interventions, and are well-trained to respond to suicidal individuals.

The CSAB advises anyone to call 9-1-1 or 988 when you hear or see someone threatening to hurt or kill themselves; looking for ways to kill themselves: seeking access to pills, weapons, or other means; and/or talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide.

You can also call 2-1-1 or 988 should you witness, hear, or see someone exhibiting hopelessness, rage, or anger; seeking revenge; acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking; feeling trapped — like there’s no way out; or increasing alcohol or drug use. Also look for those withdrawing from friends, family, or society, those exhibiting anxiety, agitation, an inability to sleep or sleeping all the time, dramatic mood changes, no reason for living and/or no sense of purpose in life.

If you or someone you know is in mental health distress or is thinking of suicide, please call or text 988 for the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, or chat And in an emergency, call or text 911.

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