Friday, September 25, 2015

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. – September is Suicide Prevention Month and health officials across the county are hoping to shed some light on the warning signs that might not always be obvious.

Mental Health is one of the top four health priorities identified as a result of findings from the 2012 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA).

According to data in the CHNA, nearly one-fifth, or 19.5 percent, of respondents had been told by a health professional at some point in their lives that they had a depressive disorder, which includes depression, major depression, dysthymia, or minor depression.

Furthermore, more than half (59.3 percent) of CHNA survey respondents rated their stress levels as moderate, high, or very high on a typical day.

“Often there are warning signs, including depression and stress, associated with suicidal thoughts that may not always be obvious,” said Ann Spottswood, Director of Community Services for Summit Health and member of the Healthy Franklin County Mental Health Task Force.

Some warning signs include:

    • Putting affairs in order
    • Withdrawal
    • Increased drug or alcohol use
    • Giving away possessions
    • Anger
    • No sense of purpose
    • Sudden mood changes
    • Feeling hopeless, helpless, or desperate
    • Changes in sleep
    • Anxiety or agitation
    • Reckless behavior
    • Talking about wanting to die or suicide

“It’s important that we as a community are not only able to recognize these signs, but start the conversation about how these might be affecting ourselves or our loved ones,” Spottswood said. “Suicide is preventable.”

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, claiming twice as many lives each year as homicide. For every person who dies by suicide, more than 30 others attempt suicide, according to the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention.

Franklin County’s suicide death rate (age-adjusted) of 12.2 percent is similar to the state (12.6 percent) and national (12.3 percent) averages, according to the CHNA results.

However, data provided by the Franklin County Department of Emergency Services shows that while calls for suicide attempts have fluctuated, the county has continued to see an increase in 911 emergency phone calls related to mental distress with 597 calls received in 2014.

Research has suggested though that creating and developing relationships – such as with family members, teachers, coworkers, community organizations, or social institutions – can help to protect people from a range of health problems, including suicide risk.

Additionally, new evidence suggests that intervention efforts, such as behavioral therapy and crisis lines, are particularly useful in suicide prevention.

In Franklin County, the Keystone Health Crisis Intervention Program Hotline is available 24/7 at (717) 264-2555 or 866-918-2555.

The Veteran’s Administration offers the Veteran’s Crisis Line, a free, confidential crisis resource that veterans, their families, and friends can access any day or time at 1-800-273-8255.

To learn more about the Mental Health Task Force, contact one of the co-chairs:

  • Kenneth Wuertenberg
    Executive Director of the Mental Health Association
    Email: akw@mhaff.org
    Phone: (717) 264-4301
  • Lori Young
    Franklin/Fulton MH/ID/EI Program Specialist
    Email: llyoung@franklincountypa.gov
    Phone: (717) 264-5387.

Summit Health is currently conducting another Community Health Needs Assessment. The data will be released in 2016.

Summit Health is a non-profit network of hospitals and physician practices dedicated to building a healthier community.

As Franklin County's leading healthcare provider, Summit Health offers family care, specialists, lab and imaging services, a fitness center, urgent care centers, and two award-winning hospitals.