MOUNT VERNON — Deaths by suicide are a complicated, commonly misunderstood, public health issue that are rarely the result of one event and often times have many warning signs. However, there are many resources available in Knox County for those struggling with thoughts of suicide.
Pathways of Central Ohio operates the Knox and Licking County 2-1-1 call center, which is available 24/7 for those who need to speak with someone. While they don’t physically see those in need, the call center can speak with you and offer resources to help, explained Kristin McCloud, executive director — all of which are free and confidential.
She also added that Pathways has a suicide prevention follow-up program. With the program, they set up a time with the person to check up on them and develop a safety plan if they don’t already have one. They also encourage those who have thoughts of suicide to seek counseling, and the workers at the call center will talk to them about the areas in their life they may be struggling with.
From July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018, there were a total of 31 “suicide threat and attempt calls” received at the 2-1-1 call center. Two of those were “attempt” calls, and 29 were “threat” calls — with callers ranging in age from 10 to 63, 14 male and 15 female, reported McCloud.
There is also a Kids Crisis Team available in Knox County called MUTT (Mobile Urgent Treatment Team). McCloud explained that “it is for youth ages 8 to 24 that are experiencing a mental health crisis.”
This team can be accessed by calling the 2-1-1 number at any time, or by calling 740-345-HELP.
“Usually, family members, teachers, etc. will call for the young person they are concerned about and the team can come to the home if necessary,” McCloud added.
The Knox County Suicide Prevention Coalition — coordinated by NAMI of Knox and Licking County and made up of Knox County Coroner, Knox County Sheriff, Mount Vernon Fire Department, Mount Vernon Police and other responders and agencies, as well as concerned citizens — is another resource to help those in need in Knox County.
The Coalition hosts multiple suicide prevention awareness events and is involved in support groups for survivors of or those affected by suicide.
There is the S.O.S. Support Group (Survivor of Suicide) as well, which meets every second Thursday of the month at 5:30 p.m. at Hospice of Knox County. It’s purpose is to link survivors to other survivors for sharing, coping and healing.
Another group is the L.O.S.S. Team (Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors). The L.O.S.S. Team is “a team of trained individuals who mentor survivors at the scene of a traumatic tragedy such as a death by suicide,” explained information from the Knox County Suicide Prevention Coalition.
For more information about both S.O.S. and L.O.S.S., or to get involved with either, contact Kathy Wantland, grief councilor at Hospice of Knox County, at 740-397-5188.
In 2017, there were 13 deaths by suicide in Knox County, said Melvin. There have been at least seven so far this year.
Often times, there are many warning signs, according to information provided to the News by Melvin. Common warning signs include: giving away favorite possessions, a marked or noticeable change in an individual’s behavior, previous suicide attempts, a feeling of hopelessness/helplessness, inappropriate “goodbyes,” purchase of a gun or pills, alcohol or drug abuse, obsessions about death and talk about suicide, decline in performance at work or school, deteriorating physical appearance or reckless actions.
Untreated depression is one of the leading causes of suicide, reported information from the Knox County Suicide Prevention Coalition.
“Depression is an illness that affects six million people nationwide. This can be brought on by a spontaneous physical or chemical change in the brain or external influences such as a significant loss by death, separation, divorce, moving from one’s home, or illness,” read the informational pamphlet.
One important point is to ask questions. If you feel someone you love is contemplating suicide, you should speak with them about it. As the Coalition said, “you cannot make someone suicidal by talking about it.”
The coalition also provides several questions you can ask, starting with telling them you are concerned about them. Some questions include “Do things seem easier to you?,” “Are you thinking it would be easier to be dead?,” or “Are you thinking of killing yourself?”
If you are having thoughts of or contemplating suicide, both Melvin and McCloud stress that there is help available to you — and recovery is possible. In Knox County, there are several options for help, including: 9-1-1, with access to crisis intervention specialists; Behavioral Healthcare Partners of Central Ohio, at 740-397-0442; Mount Vernon Police Department, at 740-397-3333; Hospice of Knox County, at 740-397-5188; NAMI, at 740-397-3088; the 2-1-1 call center; and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or text CONNECT to 741741.