LEWISTOWN - A small group of community members gathered Tuesday evening at the ComPASS Center in Lewistown to learn about suicide.
Shannon Quick, director of crisis services at The Meadows, and Evelyn Wald, a licensed professional counselor with Choices, reviewed a PowerPoint presentation on suicide awareness, education and prevention compiled by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
The local chapter of AFSP covers Potter, Tioga, Cameron, Clinton, Lycoming, Montour, Columbia, Northumberland, Union, Snyder, Clearfield, Cambria, Blair, Huntingdon, Mifflin, Juniata, Somerset, Bedford and Fulton counties.
Quick said suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. and the third leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 24. According to AFSP data, 90 percent of people who take their own life suffer from at least one psychiatric disorder.
The most common of these disorders is depression, including bipolar depression, alcohol or drug abuse and dependence, and schizophrenia.
Wald said in addition to disorders, other risk factors include past suicide attempts, chronic illness, certain sociodemographic factors and environmental risk factors like job loss or divorce.
Within the community, prevention can be accomplished through education, screening, treatment, means restriction and media guidelines, Wald said.
Quick and Wald said the key is to be on the lookout for signs of depression and other risk factors, and then be willing to listen with genuine interest to someone's concerns. Most often, the person does not really want to die, but wants their pain - be it physical or psychological - to end and the only way they can think of to accomplish this is to end life. But many psychological issues are controllable with the right combination of treatments.
The AFSP recommends that individuals familiarize themselves with three basic steps that can be used to intervene: show compassion, ask about suicide and get help.
The AFSP says at any of these phases, the person needs to know someone cares about him or her. The group recommends listening carefully, repeat their words to validate their thoughts and be genuine. Then ask if they are thinking about suicide and what their plans are in a nonabrasive way. Finally, get help, but never leave the person alone.
Locally, the Juniata Valley Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at (800) 929-9583. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at (800) 273-TALK or www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org. In matters of crisis, call 911.
For more information and resources on suicide awareness and prevention, visit the AFSP website at www.afsp.org. To view the full PowerPoint presentation, go to www.afsp.org/understanding-suicide/resources and click on the link to download "Suicide prevention: Saving lives one community at a time."
Tuesday's meeting was presented by Juniata Valley Healing Connections, AFSP and the Department of Public Welfare.