The Mental Health Association and the Clermont County Suicide Prevention Coalition held the fifth annual candlelight vigil for suicide victims and their surviving loved ones at the Union Township Veteran’s park Sept. 14.
As part of national suicide prevention week, the Clermont County Board of Commissioners last week proclaimed Sept. 10-16 Suicide Prevention Week in Clermont County. The vigil Sept. 14 was a way to acknowledge those who have lost their lives to suicide in 2005.
“We are assembled here tonight to honor and remember those who have died in the past year as a result of suicide,” said the Mental Health Association of Southwest Ohio Executive Director Nancy Minson. “We are hoping to draw attention to the great tragedy of suicide in the hopes of preventing further suicides or attempted suicides.”
More than 30,000 deaths by suicide occur every year in the United States. Suicide is the eleventh leading cause of all deaths and the third leading cause of death among people between the ages of 15 and 24.
According to Karen Scherra, the executive director of the Clermont County Mental Health and Recovery Board, suicide is increasing in the county.
“We are concerned about the statistics,” she said. “In the past six years, there have been 125 suicides in Clermont County. Last year alone there were 14. Suicide is a serious problem and that is why we feel very strongly about raising awareness and doing whatever it takes to prevent further suicides.”
One of the programs in place to help in the prevention effort is a 24-hour suicide crisis hotline.
The hotline, which is operated by Child Focus, Inc., has been in operation for three years and has had a tremendous impact on the county.
“It is important that the county has a crisis hotline because it is a service that is available to everyone who lives in the county,” said Child Focus hotline coordinator Rachel Bayer. “It is staffed around the clock by three trained professionals. There is no wait list and no answering machine. The counselors are trained and ready to talk. It has been successful in the past.”
The mental health community is most concerned about the future.
“The scary part of our levy coming up in November is in regards to this particular program,” said Bayer during the candlelight vigil. “The hotline and other suicide prevention services and programs in place are funded 100 percent by levy funds. If we do not have levy funds, the hotline that has been proven to be a needed and worthwhile initiative goes away. These services are not billable. We cannot use state or federal dollars to support these activities. The mental health levy is designed to meet local needs, so it is essential that the community vote in favor of it Nov. 7.”
At the vigil, the 14 first names of those who committed suicide last year were spoken aloud and a candle was lit in their honor.
“Suicide does not end the pain,” said Minson. “It just passes it on. There are many more victims of suicide than the people who actually die. It is estimated that for every suicide there are at least six survivors affected by it. These are the people that suffer the most. These are the people that we are reaching out to at this vigil tonight. Let us all walk away tonight feeling empowered.”
The 24-hour suicide crisis hotline is 528-SAVE (7283).