LEWISTOWN - Statistics show 1 million suicide attempts are made in the United States each year and every 14.2 minutes someone succeeds.
Bob Gebbia, executive director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention said 90 percent of individuals that consider, attempt or complete suicide have a treatable mental illness and that death is preventable.
"Though it's not drastic, there has been a constant increase in suicides for the last decade," Gebbia said. "Most of these people turn to suicide because they have an undiagnosed psychiatric or mental disorder."
Based on the latest data by the Center for Disease Control, roughly 1,631 people commit suicide a year in Pennsylvania, resulting in a 12.9 percent death-by-suicide rate. In the past three years, Juniata County has experienced nine reported suicides and Mifflin County has reported 22.
"We have seen numerous cases of completed suicides in Huntingdon, Mifflin and Juniata counties, both children and adults," said Bob Henry, mental health program specialist for Juniata Valley Behavioral and Developmental Services, formerly the Juniata Valley Tri-County MH/MR Program. "The result is immense pain and grieving for those immediately affected and for the community there is a reaction of shock and disbelief."
To increase community awareness of suicide prevention the Juniata Valley Behavioral and Developmental Services and UCBH/Tri-County Crisis are working together to form a group dedicated to promoting community awareness as well as planning and facilitating events.
"I am hoping, that by starting this task force, we will be able to bring the community together and (learn) about mental health and suicide," Belinda Flasher, team lead for Universal Community Behavioral Health's Tri-County Crisis Hotline said. "It is important for everyone to understand and be aware of depression and how to help their friends and family."
In the aftermath of a suicide, there are people left needing support and others who find solace by focusing on preventing any more tragedies, Henry said. A group like this can provide an opportunity for our communities to bring focus to the issue and create resources of support, education and prevention, Henry said.
Though National Suicide Prevention Week runs from Sept. 9-15, Flasher and Henry said they are not anticipating the new group to put on any events this year. However, an Out of the Darkness Walk will be planned for the spring in coordination with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Henry said.
National Suicide Prevention Week, and World Suicide Prevention Day on Sept. 10, are focused on the theme of "Collaborations in Suicidology: Bridging the Disciplines," and is centered on raising the awareness that suicide is a preventable cause of premature death on a global level. On a local level, Sept. 10 is meant for governments to develop policy frameworks for suicide prevention strategies and citizens to speak-out about suicide prevention, awareness and experience.
"We want to elevate the conversation about suicide to be more open and hopeful," Gebbia said. "When a community comes together to learn and discuss, the stigma of suicide is reduced and those who have been touched by the issue learn they are not alone."
There will be an Out of the Darkness Walk from 12-4 p.m. on Sept. 8 in Altoona, starting at Mansion Park. Another walk will be held from 12-4 p.m. on Sept. 15 at the City Island and River Front Park in Harrisburg.
Walk proceeds benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to further understand and prevent suicide through research, education and advocacy as well as to reach out to people with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide. Visit outofthedarkness.org to register for the Altoona or Harrisburg walks and learn more about the Out of the Darkness organization.