Physician Outlines Suicide Prevention Resources

Dec. 28, 2020

Editor, The News-Gazette:

I read Leigh Walters Kirchner Greenwood’s heartbreaking letter about the suicide death of their family member, and extend my deep condolences to her and her family.

She raised this issue at a very important time for our community, as there has been an alarming increase in suicide rates in recent years; from 1999 to 2018, the last year for which reliable data is available, the national suicide rate increased over 30 percent. There were over 48,000 known suicide deaths in 2018 alone, and the Rockbridge area has certainly been affected by this tragic trend and the unique kind of suffering experienced by the loved ones of suicide victims.

While there are no reliable national data yet on the effect that the pandemic has had on suicide rates, most jurisdictions have reported a significant jump in 2020 compared with 2019.

The pandemic has led to a persistent convergence of multiple kinds of stress while at the same time people don’t have the same access to normal ways of coping, meaning that we remain in a very high-risk time.

I wanted to mention some support resources available for Rockbridge area residents:

1. Our local crisis line is 1-855-222-2046. This crisis hotline is staffed by trained professionals who know resources in our area.

2. The Rockbridge Area Community Services at 241 Greenhouse Road, 463-3141, provides emergency mental health services to area residents during regular business hours, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday on a callin or walk-in basis.

Because of the pandemic, it’s a good idea to call ahead so that arrangements can be made for safe evaluation and treatment. During nonbusiness hours, calls go to the crisis line and an emergency clinician on call is mobilized as needed when arranging hospitalizations are needed.

3. The emergency department at Carilion Rockbridge Community Hospital can provide emergency mental health services via video link with the emergency CONNECT team that serves the Carilion system.

4. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) is available to anyone 24/7 and has Spanish language capability as well as English.

5. Rockbridge Area Hospice offers an ongoing support group for family members of suicide victims, facilitated by a licensed mental health clinician. The next group meeting is scheduled Jan. 12. Call 463-1848 for information.

6. The national SAVE organization (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, www.save.org) has multiple resources for family members, including a listing of suicide survivor support groups.

There are many important elements of suicide prevention, but one that is especially important for Rockbridge residents is to be aware that over half of suicides are by gunshot wound. Gun suicides attempts result in death about 70 percent of the time, compared with overdose attempts where about 3 percent are fatal, and there have been multiple suicides in the Rockbridge area in which teenagers used guns in their own homes. Safe storage methods, including a gun safe, trigger locks, and maintaining ammunition in separate locked storage, can help reduce these tragic deaths.

DR. KIRK LUDER

Buena Vista

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