*If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call or text 988

Although it’s important to address suicide prevention year-round, September is set aside as a dedicated month to address the very difficult topic.

At the local level, the County Health Rankings (data from 2016-2020) show that Cambria County experienced 126 deaths by suicide while Somerset County had 60.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in 2020 Pennsylvania experienced 12.6 deaths by suicide per 100,000 people. In 2020, there were 1,694 deaths.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the United States. In 2020, 45,979 Americans died by suicide and there were an estimated 1.20 million suicide attempts.

“We use this month to shift public perception, spread hope and share vital information to people affected by suicide,” said the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)’s page.

United States suicide rates have increased 35% since 1999, according to NAMI. Other NAMI stats include:

  • 79% of all people who die by suicide are male
  • More women than men attempt suicide, but men are 4-times more likely to die by suicide
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 10-34
  • 46% of people who die by suicide have a diagnosed mental health condition; however, research shows that 90% may have experienced symptoms of a mental health condition

While the suicide numbers are staggering, it is important to know some warning signs. While noticing signs or behaviors isn’t easy and each illness has its own symptoms some common signs of mental illness can include:

  • Excessive worrying or fear
  • Feeling excessively sad or low
  • Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
  • Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria
  • Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
  • Avoiding friends and social activities
  • Difficulties understanding or related to other people
  • Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
  • Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations)
  • Overuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
  • Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes
  • Thinking about suicide
  • Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
  • An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance

Locally, the Cambria County Suicide Prevention Task Force’s mission “is to help prevent suicides from happening in our community and save lives through empathy, education, and crisis intervention.”

The Task Force has resources such as the Yellow Ribbon Program for Middle and High Schools, Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) Suicide Prevention Training, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Suicide Prevention Training, free training for community groups, law enforcement, providers and faith-based organizations, MY LIFE (Magellan Youth Leaders Inspiring Future Empowerment), and Semi-Colon Project for Student Education Awareness.

To learn more about the Task Force, visit their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/cambriasuicideprevention/?ref=page_internal.

If you or someone you know is struggling, 988 is the new three-digit dialing code that will route callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It is now called the 988 Suicide & Crisis Line. Individuals who need help can call or text 988. They will be connected to trained counselors that are part of the existing Lifeline network. (The previous Lifeline phone number, 1-800-273-8255, will remain available to people in emotional distress or suicidal crisis).

For more information, visit 988lifeline.org.