The staff and volunteers who answer calls to the region’s suicide hotline are encouraged by the state’s comprehensive effort to reduce the suicide rate. Cheryl Giarrusso is Director of Crisis Intervention Services at Contact Community Services.
"I think the push right now is to make the public aware that suicide is a public issue," Giarrusso said. "It is something that has to come out of the darkness and into the light.
The New York State Office of Mental Health’s plan is called “1,700 too many,” and seeks to integrate suicide prevention into primary healthcare. Giarrusso says suicide assessments should be conducted on a regular basis.
"When you go in for your annual physical health issue your mental health should be considered as well, so it may be necessary to screen for suicide each time you go in for a physical".
Connecting those at risk with the local community can also make a difference. For Giarrusso, it’s about coaching the public on how to recognize warning signs.
"Asking that important question, 'Are you having thoughts of suicide? Do you want to kill yourself?' and then getting the person to safety and further help."
That’s just one approach contact uses to educate the community through its prevention programs. The de-stigmasation suicide ideation plays a vital part in combating the issue, according to Giarrusso.
"I think our trainings are integral in helping reduce the stigma, because once we reduce the stigma and its okay to have the conversation, to let people know how you're feeling and to know that there is someone to talk about it. I think that's the push. That's really what is most important".
Although Giarrusso has been training people for years, she believes the new state initiative will help get the word out. Contact’s suicide hotline is (315) 251-0600. More information about their services and trainings can be found at contactsyracuse.org