NEWARK, OH (WCMH) – May is mental health awareness month and advocates in Licking County are hoping to reduce the stigma associated with suicide and addiction.
Last year in the county, 35 people died from an unintentional opiate overdose and 31 died by suicide. According to Mental Health America of Licking County (MHALC), this year 11 people have died by suicide.
Tarsha Raker-Henry lost her husband to suicide in 2006.
“My husband, he was a hard worker, very hard worker. Good heart, did everything for everybody that asked, but he suffered. He suffered,” she said. “I want people to know that suicide can happen in any family, anywhere.”
She said Chris would worry what people would think if they found out he was struggling.
“His theory with that was, ‘I don’t want everybody to know. I don’t want to get help because then everybody’s going to know and that would be time off of work and how are we going to live?” she said.
Tarsha is working to reduce that stigma and volunteers at MHALC. She is on their LOSS team, or Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors.
“Anytime there’s a suicide in Licking County, a team is called out to assist to be with the family,” she said.
Justina Wade is the organization’s suicide prevention coordinator. She travels to the majority of middle and high schools in Licking Co., educating children. She also does suicide prevention training for adults and businesses across the community.
“It’s important to recognize the warning signs and know what resources are available,” she said.
Some warning signs for suicide include: change in sleep patterns, change in eating habits, high anxiety, previous suicide attempts, feeling hopeless, aggression, risky behavior or acting withdrawn and not doing usual activities.
“We’ve seen a rising trend of elderly suicides, also that college-age early 20s,” she said.
Wade said suicide and addiction should both be seen as a brain disease and stressed the importance of seeking out help.
“If someone has cancer they wouldn’t wait years for treatment, so we try to get it out there, we don’t want to wait years for someone to get treatment for their mental health,” she said.
Licking County Health Commissioner Joe Ebel said a lot of the same factors play into addiction and suicide.
“Undiagnosed mental health problems, depression, either childhood or adult traumas, those kind of risk factors can be a risk for addictive behavior as well as suicide,” he said.
He said prevention is key, especially for our youth.
“If we can teach them how to deal with that, have counselors available to talk the when things go on in their life or home that causes stress, that’s going to give them tools that they can use all through their life,” said Ebel.
RESOURCES FOR SUICIDE:
– Survivors After Suicide (support group) at MHA of Licking Co. (http://mhalc.org/?page_id=75)
– National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
– For Licking & Knox Co. residents: call 2-1-1 for The Crisis Hotline and Information Center of Pathways
RESOURCES FOR ADDICTION:
– SAMHSA Treatment Center Locator (https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/locator?sAddr=43055&submit=Go) or call 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
– Resources for talking to children about being drug-free (http://starttalking.ohio.gov/)
– Information for overcoming substance abuse (https://startyourrecovery.org/)