Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS), the Buncombe County Child Fatality Prevention Team (CFPT), and the Community Child Protection Team (CCPT) have identified youth suicide as an area of focus for efforts around prevention and awareness during Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. During the week of September 5th, partners in Buncombe County will participate in an awareness campaign designed to reach families and parents of K-12 youth in Buncombe County with the goal of ensuring that individuals, friends and families have access to the resources they need to discuss suicide. In an effort to raise awareness on this stigmatized, and often taboo, topic, BCHHS, Vaya Health, and school communities will be sharing vital information to families and children impacted by suicide.
Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. On average, 132 Americans die by suicide each day. In North Carolina, one person dies by suicide every six hours. (www.afsp.org/statistics). In 2018, over 6,700 young people took their own lives, making suicide the second leading cause of death for young people between 10 and 24 in the United States (study by the CDC).
“Any child fatality by suicide is too many,” says Stoney Blevins, BCHHS Director. “The CFPT and CCPT teams review the data and circumstances around child fatalities in Buncombe County. They identify systems issues, what prevention strategies might be effective moving forward, and explore ways to build resiliency within families and communities for sustained protection of our youth. We know that youth mental health continues to be of great concern for our community, especially during the COVID pandemic. It will take more than a campaign to support youth mental health but awareness and conversations with children who might be grappling with suicidal ideation is a first step towards preventing a tragic loss.”
As part of National Suicide Prevention Awareness Week, Vaya Health will host free virtual screenings of “Suicide: The Ripple Effect.” Sponsored by the Vaya Consumer and Family Advisory Committee, the film shines a light on people who are using experiences with suicide to help others find the hope they need to stay alive. The free virtual screenings will be running September 6 -10, 2021, and will start at 5 p.m. Visit www.vayahealth.com to access the screening.
Know the Signs:
Knowing the signs of suicidality is key to offering timely support. According to Stanford Children’s Health, the warning signs of suicidality include:
- Noticeable changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Unexplained or unusually severe, violent, or rebellious behavior
- Withdrawal from family or friends
- Sexual promiscuity, truancy, and vandalism
- Drastic personality change
- Agitation, restlessness, distress, or panicky behavior
- Talking or writing about committing suicide, even jokingly
- Giving away prized possessions
- Doing worse in school
If you know someone who is showing signs of suicidality, there are ways you can show them support. One of the best resources available to people experiencing suicidal thoughts is the suicide prevention lifeline. This resource offers 24/7 support to people experiencing suicidal ideation. The 24/7 Access to Care Line phone number is 1-800-849-6127.
Take Action Now:
- Pay attention to the signs and address the issue. Suicidality is not something that disappears when ignored. Talk to the person who needs support and let them know that you care for them and are there to support them.
- Remember that talking about suicide does not cause suicide. Talk to your friend or child about suicide and use the word suicide. Using coded language can often leave people feeling dismissed, unheard, and uncared for.
- Put Vaya Health’s 24/7 access to care number into your phone in case you need it: 1-800-849-6127
- Remove lethal weapons from the home and ensure all pills are locked up.
- Seek professional help. Trained professionals may be more equipped to handle these challenging conversations and may be just what your friend or child need to get to a better mental state. You or your child can reach out to the school guidance counselor for a deeper conversation about your concerns.