LIMA — For Valerie Coffey, the loss of her son Scott at age 17 to suicide a dozen years ago still hurts. The signs were there but the ultimate outcome, she didn’t see coming.
“He had had a lot of trouble in school and some problems with the law, just acting out and some things that he couldn’t control that got him in some trouble. I don’t think we knew how he was really feeling,” said Coffey. “We didn’t recognize it, so when things started happening we weren’t really sure what to do.”
September is suicide awareness month and 165 people registered to walk in Saturday’s 13th annual Allen County Suicide Awareness and Prevention Walk which began and ended at Trinity Park on West Market Street in Lima.
“We’ve got to get the word out. Everyone wants to push it under the rug, nobody wants to talk about it, everybody’s afraid of it and until we start treating it like a regular medical condition, I think it’s just going to continue and nobody’s going to reach out for help because they’re going to think that it is so embarrassing,” said Coffey.
The walk was one of the activities going on in a three-county area to bring attention to the problem.
“We have a suicide coalition in each of the three counties, Allen, Auglaize and Hardin, and so today’s walk is the Allen County branch of that for suicide awareness and support,” said Rick Skilliter, executive director at PASS, (Prevention, Awareness, Support Services).
The incidences of suicide, at least in our area, hasn’t gone up.
“The last couple of years our numbers have been stable. They did take a pretty high hit a couple of years back with double-digit increase, actually, so that has kind of stabilized. Nationally, we know that the numbers are going up and certainly events like this raise awareness to the need to continue conversation, break down barriers, break down stigma that allows people to reach out for help when they’re struggling or recognize when their family members are struggling to get connected to services,” said Skilliter.
It’s the young people who seem to be more susceptible to going through with suicide.
“Suicide is a big problem even if we lose one life that we could have saved. In this community, we have not seen a significant increase in totality but what we have seen is an increase among our youth and that’s what we want to make sure that we stop that trajectory from going forward,” said Tammie Colon, executive director of the Mental Health and Recovery Service Board.
For those considering suicide, there are agencies that can help.
“Locally we have Coleman Professional Service. We have SAFY and we have Family Resource Center as our in-system clinical help. Certainly, there are private practitioners and clinicians in the region as well. St. Rita’s Medical Center is known for having in-patient care for those who have behavioral emergencies and behavioral issues and getting connected. Many communities our size and even bigger don’t have that resource available so it’s just a tremendous asset for us to able to tap into when needed,” added Skilliter.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.