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Mayor’s Statement on Suicide; Link to Suicide Prevention Lifeline


We grieve with our Wesleyan community this evening following last Friday’s loss of one of their own, 21 year-old Garret Seech. The details of this tragedy are insignificant. What is important is to recognize the reality that we are experiencing an epidemic of suicide in our American society. We are on pace to lose about 50,000 Americans to suicide in 2018. Since 1999 alone, suicide rates in the U.S. have skyrocketed by 30%. Rurally located Americans are far more vulnerable to suicide. West Virginia is one of the states that has seen the greatest increase in suicide during the past 20 years. Fifty-four % of people who take their own lives didn’t have a previously known mental health issue. Males are four times more likely to take their own lives than females. Suicide for whites are higher & have been climbing faster than those for other racial & ethnic groups. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people between ages 10 to 24. Gay youths are 300% more likely to attempt suicide. As reported by the Trevor Project citing the Center for Disease Control, one in six high school students seriously considered suicide during the past year.

The CDC cites several different approaches to reduce suicide rates, such as working to stabilize housing, employment, & teaching coping & problem-solving skills early in life. “Research shows that the decision to attempt suicide is often made quickly, in an impulsive way, says Robert Gebbia, the head of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.” Mr. Gebbia observes that our “nation currently has no federally funded suicide prevention program for adults. ‘There are some for youth, but they’re very, very tiny.’ We can’t expect a major health problem like this to be addressed unless we see the investment.”

According to the BBC that recently studied & reported about suicide in the U.S., citing Professor Julie Cerel, president of the American Association of Suicidology, a major problem with suicide prevention stems from our mental health systems. “Our mental health systems are just really struggling across the country…. In terms of training mental health professionals, we’re not doing a great job.” Dr. Jerry Reed with the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention states, “There is definitely a relationship between serious mental illness and suicidal behavior” however, it is not just a mental health challenge. “Economic conditions or livelihood opportunities in decline could lead people to positions where they’re at risk. We need to intervene in both mental & public health cases,” according to Dr. Reed. Encouraging people to go to therapy & using mental health professionals to help change dysfunctional thinking is the ultimate goal. For some people “feeling connected & feeling like they belong are really important things,” according to the CDC.

Many people who contemplate, attempt, or carry out suicide, feel hopeless, they’re in a state of despair- whether it’s finances, relationships, or health. The June 15, 2018 issue of The Economist refers to many of today’s suicide victims as being “the new hopeless.” Somehow, some way- our society needs to create hope. If you, or someone you know- is having suicidal thoughts- there is help. Naturally, if there’s an emergency, call 911. But- other resources to help people deal with depression, anxiety, a sense of hopelessness include the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or the Crisis Test Line by texting HOME to 741741. Youth in need of help can call Kids Help Line at 1-800-668-6868. Signs that a person may be suicidal include a change in behavior or the presence of entirely new behaviors often borne out of a painful event, loss, or change. Most people who take their lives exhibit one or more warning signs through what they say or do. Be alert to new impulsive conduct.

Every day, every single day- in towns across America, towns often just like our Buckhannon, 140 people will commit suicide. Suicide occurs all around us. Suicide occurs here. Please recognize the signs. Help anyone who talks about killing them self, who express hopelessness, who say they have no reason to live, who say they are a burden to others, who feel trapped, or are suffering unbearable pain, depression, or anxiety. Err on the side of intervening. Dare to care.