WAYNE COUNTY—So far this year, 12 individuals have been confirmed to have died by suicide in Wayne County. Six of those were in the last month.

The youngest death by suicide this year was only 19 years old. The average age of victims was 39.

In 2018, the total number of confirmed deaths by suicide in Wayne County was 18.

Nationally, suicide is the second leading cause of death among peopled between 10 and 34 years old.

In an effort to reduce these figures as much as possible, and bring aid to those who need it, the Wayne County Board of Commissioners proclaimed September to be Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month.

“Most suicide is a result of severe depression,” explained John Nebzydoski, Co-Chair of the Wayne/Pike Chapter of the Northeast Suicide Prevention Initiative (NSPI).

“Signs are typically changes,” Nebzydoski added, “people giving things away, changes in mood...A lot of people will tell people that they've considered it or attempted it in the past. I just urge people to take any threats like that very seriously.”

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), other warning signs include increased use of drugs or alcohol, withdrawing from activities and isolation from friends and family.

In addition to displaying irritability and aggression, AFSP notes those contemplating suicide may also display extreme tiredness, humiliation and shame, and sometimes relief or a stark, sudden improvement from the aforementioned moods.

Risk factors include mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety and other behavioral disorders, traumatic brain injury or serious physical malady, previous suicide attempts or family history of suicide, and childhood abuse/neglect.

Stressful life events in one's employment or personal life, such as being fired or experiencing a divorce or other loss are also risk factors.

AFSP also notes access to lethal means such as firearms and drugs can increase risk of death by suicide, as can exposure to another person's suicide or graphic/sensationalized accounts of another's suicide.

According to data from the Wayne County Coroner's office, of the 12 deaths by suicide this year, eight were facilitated by gunshot wounds to the head.

“We shouldn't be afraid to talk to whoever we may feel may be considering suicide,” said NSPI Treasurer Carol Kneier, Thursday. “Asking them and talking to them may actually prevent that from happening.

“One of our goals with awareness is to have an open communication with individuals and to let people talk about it and realize it's a true feeling and they can get help.”

Kneier also noted there is a recent change in terminology regarding suicides.

Whereas “committed suicide” was one the accepted jargon, Kneier noted that “sounds negative,” encouraging those who speak about suicide to instead use the phrase “died by suicide.”

Getting help

While there are a number of risk factors exacerbating the likelihood of death by suicide, it is a preventable condition with the proper help.

According to AFSP, psychotherapy is a useful tool to help individuals work through times of stress and behavioral conditions which may be causing suicidal contemplation.

Additionally, medical treatment for mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and others can help, as can treatment for drug and alcohol abuse.

For those who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts, help is available immediately through the local crisis hotline 570-253-0321.

Crisis professionals are available 24/7 to help those in need work through periods of intense stress.

Those in need can also call the national hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

If talking in person presents a challenge, those in need can also send text messages to 741741.

For long-term recovery, those in need can contact the Wayne County Office of Behavioral and Developmental Programs and Early Intervention (BDP/EI) at 570-253-9200.

Nebzydoski explained BDP/EI can connect at-risk individuals with the proper medical and/or therapeutic outlets in the area to address their suicidal thoughts.

More information

Those looking to learn more about suicide and ways to prevent it can find NSPI resources at the Hawley, Honesdale and Hamlin public libraries.

Additionally, more information can be found at NSPI's annual Share the Journey suicide prevention walk on Saturday, September 28.

Starting at 10:00 a.m. at the Wallenpaupack High School, the event looks to educate the public with guest speakers on suicide prevention, proper medication disposal, and other topics.

There will be a memory wall in place to honor those lost to suicide, as well as gun locks handed out to reduce easy access to firearms.

Attendees will also be treated to a free lunch.

“Any funds we raise are used to provide information and resources to our community about suicide prevention, and to provide suicide prevention trainings,” said Nebzydoski, noting that last year's event generated funding used to educate first responders.

Commissioner Wendell Kay stated Thursday, “I would encourage anyone in the public who has not had the opportunity to attend the event down at 'Paupack to do so on the 28th. It is a very educational experience...It can be emotional, especially as you listen to family members.”

Noting anyone who's experienced a loved one's death by suicide “knows the devastation of it all,” Commissioner Joseph Adams commended NSPI on its efforts, stating “...we certainly applaud your efforts to help educate and prevent and give opportunities for recovery.”

Commissioner Chairman Brian Smith likewise stated most in the County are likely familiar with someone who has died by suicide, encouraging the public “as you pass by someone who's wandering, say 'hello', say 'good morning'. It doesn't hurt you a bit, and engaging with people changes everybody's life.”

Information about suicide prevention is also available online at www.northeastsuicidepreventioninitiative.org and their Facebook page “Northeast Suicide Prevention Initiative.”

The AFSP also has informational resources online at www.afsp.org.