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Every day is Suicide Prevention Day: Kentucky has many resources to help.

Lexington Herald-Leader - 9/9/2022

Sept. 10 of every year is World Suicide Prevention Day. This event represents a world-wide effort to raise awareness that over 700,000 individuals globally die by suicide every year, including 45,000 Americans and over 800 Kentuckians. The devastation of suicide is furthered by the impact of those closest to the person who dies. For every person who dies by suicide, on average over 135 people are exposed to this death and of these about 48 individuals are significantly impacted by it. This may lead to their own depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation and even suicide death. Suicide produces more suicide. That’s why suicide prevention day needs to be every day.

Despite the challenges to the mental health of Kentuckians, including the natural disasters in Western and Eastern Kentucky, geographic distance to life-saving help, and lack of clinical expertise in how to treat suicide, Kentucky also has robust suicide prevention resources.

On July 16, the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline or “988” was launched nationally providing immediate access for individuals experiencing a crisis to be connected with a mental health professional. This 24/7 suicide prevention crisis line is a welcome development and augments other public services such as the Crisis Text Line at 741741. Kentucky has already witnessed an increase in calls and answer rates to 988.

Additionally, the Commonwealth of Kentucky recently received the federal Garrett Lee Smith suicide prevention grant providing $750,000 every year for the next five years. Managed by the state suicide prevention coordinator, Beck Whipple, this grant will create necessary infrastructure and expertise to address both suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention services.

Critical research leadership is underway at the University of Kentucky’s Suicide Prevention and Exposure Lab led by Julie Cerel and Amy Brausch at Western Kentucky University on adolescent suicide and self-harm.

Eastern Kentucky University’s Trauma and Suicide Prevention Clinic provides life-saving suicide focused treatment to community members and Kentuckians across the state virtually and in-person. Throughout the month of September, also known as Suicide Prevention Month, EKU is hosting clinical trainings, outreach events, and a partnership with the Lexington Diocese’s El Centro de San Juan Diego for a Catholic mass in honor of World Suicide Prevention Day with Bishop John Stowe.

The El Centro de San Juan Diego’s outreach addresses unique needs among Hispanic communities locally, as the suicide rate among Hispanic adults increased by more than 70 percent, while the Hispanic population in the United States only grew by about 25 percent between 2010 to 2020. The El Centro provides year around mental health services, as well as suicide specific services provided by the EKU Trauma and Suicide Prevention Clinic.

Nonprofits in Kentucky, such as Brothers Run Foundation, Shelby’s Way, and Chloe’s Petals for Hope will also host events throughout September and represent what we also know to be true about suicide loss in Kentucky.

In the words of Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, “[e]ven the helpless victim of a hopeless situation, facing a fate he cannot change, may rise above himself, may grow beyond himself, and by so doing change himself . . . turn a personal tragedy into a triumph.” These central Kentucky suicide prevention nonprofits were all started by parents who lost children to suicide and wanted to give meaning and purpose to their loss by giving back.

There are far greater resources nationally and in Kentucky because of the efforts of suicide bereaved, researchers, policy makers, public health planners, and faith communities, many of whom are located in Kentucky and passionate about helping others. Much work is being done, but so much more is needed every day.

Melinda Moore is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at Eastern Kentucky University and clinical psychologist in private practice in Lexington.

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