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Shining a light on suicide prevention
Baker City Herald - 9/27/2022
Sep. 21—As darkness fell on Baker City, the illuminated white bags shared messages dedicated to loved ones lost to suicide.
The candlelight vigil, organized by New Directions Northwest, encouraged the community to gather on Saturday, Sept. 10, in observance of World Suicide Awareness Day.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month.
At the vigil, bags decorated in honor of those lost to suicide were illuminated with lights to flicker in the dark. Nearby, a table of information offered resources, most notably the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline that started July 16.
The crisis line number is 988, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Callers are connected with trained crisis counselors "who can help people experiencing suicidal, substance use, and/or mental health crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress," said Haley Hueckman, prevention coordinator for New Directions Northwest.
She said 988 is also an option for someone who believes a loved one may need crisis support.
According to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among young people. Every year in the U.S., more people die by suicide than in car accidents, and more suicide deaths occur than homicide and AIDS deaths combined.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that suicide is the ninth leading cause of death in Oregon.
According to statistics from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, counselors resolve more than 95% of calls over the phone.
The crisis counselors are trained to use the least invasive interventions and are linked to a network of services. When in-person support or intervention is needed, the counselors may dispatch a mobile crisis team or first responder.
Since the Lifeline launched in 2005, it has received more than 23 million calls.
"Locally, Baker County suicide rates are higher than the state average," Hueckman said. "A person can go from 'just fine' to having a mental health crisis in a very short time."
New Directions Northwest offers 24-hour crisis intervention for adults and children.
That crisis number is 541-519-7126.
In addition to NDN resources, the Baker County Safe Communities Coalition has a dedicated group that focuses on suicide prevention. Anyone interested in joining this committee can contact Hueckman at email@example.com.
New Directions provides a free course titled QPR (Question, Persuade and Refer) Gatekeeper Training for Suicide Prevention that teaches the warning signs of a suicide crisis and offers tips on how to respond.
And if you suspect someone is considering self-harm?
"Ask," Hueckman said. "Be direct, respectful and concerned: 'Are you thinking of killing yourself?' Finding the courage to ask this important question can mean the difference between life and death."
For more information, visit newdirectionsnw.org.
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