“Someone’s life could end on any given day,” said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz at the annual flag raising event which commemorates Suicide Prevention Awareness month. And indeed, on September 2, here in Erie County, more than 50 individuals ended their life by suicide.
The flag raising held on September 7 was organized by the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Erie County (Spectrum Health is a proud member) and this year’s commemoration was particularly poignant. Just a couple months ago, the new, national Suicide and Crisis Lifeline was launched: 988. This new, easy to remember and easy to ‘dial’ number replaces a more traditional toll-free number and it’s already helping to save lives. In its first two weeks, there was an 86% increase in calls to 988, and in the first full month, there was a 108% increase in calls. This doesn’t mean that more people are thinking of taking their life, it means that more people are reaching out, ignoring the mental health stigma, and are asking for life-saving help.
Finding that connection, that person who can help us find both “help and hope,” as Spectrum Health’s Bob Cannata said at the event, is the first step.
“Saving lives starts with relationships, it starts with people understanding that there’s someone there to talk, listen, and understand,” said Erie County Commissioner of Mental Health Mark O’Brien.
As September winds down, please remember that Suicide Prevention Awareness isn’t limited to one month in our year. Staying tuned in to our own needs, our family, and our friends, and normalizing the simple yet very challenging task to reach out when help is needed is something we can and should do. Together we can save lives, by remembering to ask for help when it’s needed. 988 – and Spectrum Health’s Emergency Services team – is only a phone call away.
Click the link to watch the flag raising ceremony and to hear local educator and vocalist Kathleen Bassett perform a lovely rendition of “You’ve Got a Friend.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQbCPDoJ1V8