Celebrity deaths renew conversation on suicide prevention

“Shine a Light” kicked off Mental Health Awareness Month at the College of Canyons. In an effort to spread awareness on suicide and dispel the stigmas associated with mental health, the school placed more than 1,100 lanterns in the Honor Grove to represent the 1,100 college students that lose their lives to suicide every year (Credit: Brennon Dixson)

With the recent deaths of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, suicide has once more entered the public conversation, reminding the community of the importance of mental health and communication with loved ones.

Suicide remains one of the leading causes of death in the United States and is the second leading cause of death among teenagers age 15-19, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a recent news release, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and Mental Health is urging everyone to learn about suicide risk factors.

“Suicide is devastating, and we all need to come together to reduce stigma and ensure that it is easy for anyone to connect to support,” said Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “We urge everyone to take time to learn about the warning signs of suicide and how each of us can help someone who may be at risk. Resources are available to help people in need of support.”

Locally, Santa Clarita has been battling suicide either through the schools or through services such as Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital’s Behavioral Health Unit, that provides care to those in psychological crisis, according to the Hospital’s website.

The hospital also offers a free mental health screen on their website as a quick way to determine if someone should reach out to a mental health professional.

In the Schools

Earlier this year the William S. Hart Union High school district discussed suicide awareness and ways they are attempting to prevent the issue, in a story with The Signal.

“More alarming is suicide was the third leading cause of death for teenagers and now it is the second leading cause of death for teenagers,” said Kathy Hunter, the Hart School District Director of Student Services. “Beyond that, we have a new group that has actually, I believe, a 300 percent increase in suicide attempts and completed suicide, which is our Latina girls between the ages of 10 and 16.”

The district is piloting two school based programs to educate students about suicide and general mental health.

At Arroyo Seco Junior High, the staff installed the “More Than Sad” program created by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. According to the foundation’s website, “More Than Sad” educates students and teachers how to recognize the signs of depression and suicide.

At Saugus High School students started the “Bring Change to Mind” club, which works to encourage teens to connect to each other and spread the message that mental health is important to maintain.

“There’s no way that a school, a friend, a family gets over this,” Assistant Clerk Linda Storli said.  “It’s not fixable unless we can catch in the beginning.”

College of the Canyons’ Student Health and Wellness center offers resources for students such as a free counseling session with a mental health professional. The Health and Wellness center also offers referrals to community services when long term counseling is needed according to COC’s website.

Prevention Resources

Across the nation various resources have been made available to those considering suicide. Resources like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline are available 24/7 for those need the service. The lifeline’s number is (800) 273-8255.

Other organizations such as the Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services or the American Association of Suicidology also provide services to help those going through a mental health crisis and need assistance. To reach out to either organization call (877) 727-4747 for the Didi Hirsch suicide prevention center if you live in the greater Los Angeles Area, or call (202) 237-2280 for the American Association of Suicidology.

Teens who need help with mental health have other resources available to them both locally and nationally.

In LA County teens have access to the Los Angeles County Youth Suicide Prevention Project. The project informs teens and parents of the potential warning signs of suicide and the risk factors associated with it.

The project also connects teens and parents to resources specifically made for teen mental health such as the Teen Line that can be called at (800) 852-8336 or (310) 855-4673. The line can be called toll free in California from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

If anyone is in an immediate emergency crisis situation, including an attempted suicide, call 911.

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