The Onondaga County Suicide Prevention Coalition is using the occasion of Suicide Prevention Week to partner with the Syracuse VA to raise awareness about how the community can help save lives. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., and in Onondaga County, 58 people committed suicide in 2015. Syracuse VA suicide prevention coordinator Sabah Ocasio says says suicidal thoughts may begin due to events in people’s lives.
"Often times, the thoughts might begin with a situational crisis, including a pending divorce or legal problems. Also factors such as mental illness will play a role."
Ocasio says of the 20 veterans who commit suicide each day in the U.S., only six ever receive any VA care. Head of the Onondaga County suicide prevention coalition Stephanie Grandjean says warning signs can include the use of words such as “hopeless” and “trapped” as well as abnormal behaviors.
"When people start giving things away, or when they start talking about death a lot. Some of the other things you can look for are extreme baseline changes in mood, such as someone who's always been really outgoing suddenly starts withdrawing. Or, someone who's normally very quiet suddenly gets very angry easily."
The coalition offers training for those caring for others who might be suicidal. Grandjean says people often want to talk about what they’re feeling, so listening to them and remaining nonjudgmental is critical.
"Part of the stigma around suicide is that it's a hard things to talk about. People are often scared to talk about suicide because if they find out someone's thinking about suicide, they don't know what to do next. To bring an awareness of suicide in general helps to bring it to the forefront. We know being able to have that conversation can prevent a lot of lives lost to suicide."
New York is 50th in the nation in the number of suicides, and Ocasio attributes that to awareness campaigns and strong supports. Contact Community Services in Syracuse has a 24/7 hotline at (315) 251-0600. The national suicide prevention line can be reached anytime at 1-800-273-8255.
The public is invited to a remembrance ceremony Tuesday, Sept. 26th to honor the lives lost to suicide. It will be held at the chapel at the Syracuse VA, first floor, room A108 at 3:00 p.m.