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Advocates: Awareness key to reducing suicides

Logan County has recorded 16 suicides since 2011

Suicide remains a prevailing problem in Logan County, even as local advocacy groups ramp up efforts to spread awareness.

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Advocates and survivors convened Friday for an annual suicide awareness ceremony at the Holland Theatre hosted by Logan/Champaign Counties Suicide Prevention Coalition, that also included a proclamation from Logan County Commissioners declaring September suicide prevention month.

Despite ongoing awareness campaigns, support groups and around-the-clock hotlines, suicide is a problem not soon going away, speakers said.

There were eight suicides in Logan County in 2012, totaling the same number as in 2011. That number may well climb into double-digits by year’s end, advocates said.

According to Jeannie Dempster, clinical director at Consolidated Care Inc., 291 people have been treated since June 2012 in crisis situations for thoughts, and sometimes re-occurring thoughts, of suicide.

Speaking on behalf of suicide survivors, Amanda Stidam shared the story of her mother, who committed suicide in August 2006.

Mrs. Stidam credited the suicide prevention coalition for helping her carry on since her mother’s death. She has since signed on with the organization as an advocate and fundraiser, maintaining an online diary about her marathon training and distance running to raise suicide awareness.

“My mother chose the day after my 35th birthday to take her own life,” Mrs. Stidam said. “My siblings and I say that our life has been cut into two halves now; before Mom died and after.”

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Advocates release balloons Friday during a suicide prevention and awareness ceremony at the Holland Theatre. (EXAMINER PHOTO/NATE SMITH)

Mrs. Stidam’s mother suffered from a mental illness for much of her life, she said. It’s common for people who commit suicide to have suffered from some kind of mental illness — diagnosed or not, said Pete Floyd, president of the local chapter for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, who encouraged those in attendance to drop the stigma associated with mental illness.

“We don’t call a cancer patient crazy,” he said. “These are diagnosed illnesses and should be treated the same as any other sickness.”

The issue is hardly relegated to Logan County.

Nationally, over 34,000 Americans die each year to suicide. That’s one person every 12 minutes and 105 per day, according to the commissioners’ proclamation. Suicide is attempted on average every 24 seconds.

Worldwide Suicide Prevention Day is observed Tuesday. A suicide awareness 5K is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 28. Survivors of suicide group meetings are conducted from 7 to 8:30 p.m., on the second Tuesday of the month at Hillcrest Baptist Church, 1505 S. Main St.

Logan/Champaign Counties Suicide Prevention Coalition maintains a 24-7 suicide crisis hotline, (800) 224-0422. See the organization’s Web site, http://savealifelc.org/.


 

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