OKEECHOBEE – “Conversations matter and can help save lives,” Tracy Hernandez of Suncoast Mental Health Center told Okeechobee County Commissioners at their Sept. 6 meeting.
The commissioners declared September as Suicide Prevention and Awareness month.
“We must continue to promote prevention through conservation and education,” said Hernandez. “It is time we shed light on this tragic loss of life. It’s time we talk away the dark.”
She said on average there are 132 suicides a day in this country and for every death by suicide in recent years there are 35 attempts.
Suncoast Mental Health Center has 245 clients in Okeechobee County, she explained. Suncoast also provides onsite counseling at 10 schools in the county, and services are available by request at all local schools.
“Many people we work with every day struggle with mental illness,” said Leah Suarez of Our Village Okeechobee. She said the causes of mental illness are connected to their socio-economic status and other stressors in their lives.
Our Village is opening a new education and arts center to provide more services to local children. “We have found such a connection between good mental health and academic achievement,” she said.
“Suicide is the only cause of death that is 100% preventable,” said Chad Adcock, 2-1-1 Helpline community outreach representative.
“If anyone you know or anyone you encounter, let them know there is help available, it is free and it is available 24-7. All you have to do is call the three-digit number,” he said.
The proclamation states: “September is recognized as National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, which directs the community’s attention the ensuing health, economic, and housing crisis has more recently taken its toll on mental health with increases in suicidal ideation and deaths, substance use, household violence, food insecurity, and more. Suicide rates on the Treasure Coast and in Okeechobee continued to increase in 2022 according to our Medical Examiner’s Office.
“Suicide is among the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States, resulting in about one death every 11 minutes. Additionally, suicide attempts result in an even larger number of non-fatal, intentional self-harm injuries. Suicide is a problem throughout the life span. In the US, it is the second leading cause of death for people 10 to 34 years of age, the fourth leading cause among people 35 to 54 years of age, and the eighth leading cause among people 55 to 64 years of age.
“Provisional data shows in 2022, Florida had a rate of 15.8 when it came to suicide deaths, per 100,000 people. This is up slightly from 2021's official data rate of 15.4. In comparison, the provisional rate across the U.S. in 2022 was 14.9. as reported by the CDC Center for Disease; and WHEREAS, suicide is the only type of death that is 100% preventable; and by offering the public education, data, support, and services we as a community have taken a step toward preventing another suicide by our residents.
“The 2-1-1 Helpline is that central access point providing individuals and families with guidance and crisis support via telephone or text any time day or night. It is also the regional responder for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK).”