HAPPENING NOW: The panel for Governor Wolf’s Suicide Prevention Task Force is just getting started! Make your way to the SSC Theater or stay tuned!
Posted by WSRU-TV News on Friday, November 8, 2019
Governor Tom Wolf’s Suicide Prevention Task Force visited SRU’s campus on Friday morning for a panel discussion about mental health and suicide prevention.
“This is the statewide prevention task force and it is a four year strategy to reduce suicide in Pennsylvania and fight stigma associated with suicide attempts and mental health issues,” one of the panelists opened the session with. “Suicide is not limited to those who have a mental health diagnosis, in fact, according to a 2018 report from the CDC, more than 50% of people who die by suicide do not have a mental health diagnosis.”
Following a few opening remarks, audience members were asked to speak about how suicide affects the lives of Pennsylvanians. The Task Force called this event on Friday a listening session to hear about those affected by suicide, so that thee state can better tackle the issue.
Pam Nolan, a member of the audience, said that she wants to see more information and resources online for people who are suicidal, rather than just for people who lost someone from suicide.
“The first time I tried to kill myself, I was 13,” Nolan said. “I am 66 now and have been dealing with my depression for 56 years.”
She continued talking about the importance of peer groups and about the stigma around behavioral and mental health.
“People tell me I have so much to live for, which I do, so they make me feel guilty for being depressed,” Nolan said. “I don’t know why I am depressed, I just am.”
Patrick Kimmel, a member of the local chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said he lost his 22 year old son to suicide. He would go to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for support and since has become a volunteer.
“We focus on legislation for preventing suicide,” Kimmel said. “We have seen a lot written up over the past 5 years, but I expect to be able to do more.”
A nurse that works with elderly patients stood up and explained how elderly people sometimes feel lonely and hopeless when they lose their dependence and how her own grandfather took his own life when she was 13 years old. She wanted to shine a light on the older generations, aside from just college students being affected by suicide and depression.
An emergency medical services professional from Butler also explained her mental health concerns and how many others that she works with deal with a lot of emotional stress after getting called out to scenes.
“We are a small population, but people at my station really struggle, but are afraid nobody will understand them so they try to act tough. I want to shed light on this issue,” she said.
Other members of the audience spoke about their concerns with substance abuse and with gun control. Nolan said that when a person plans a suicide with a gun, they do not have time to back out and call 9-11, as she has done several times in her life. With that, she suggested tighter gun laws.
The question was also raised of “what can a regular parent do when a child says ‘I want to kill myself’ lightly and makes it sound like it’s a normal thing to say?”
The task force told the room full of people that they are going to discuss the stories, suggestions and ideas with the state legislature in hopes of reducing suicide rates in Pennsylvania as part of their 4-year plan.
Anyone who may be struggling can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255 or reach the Crisis Text Line 24/7 by texting “START” to 741-741. The Student Counseling Center located in Rhoads Hall is open Monday and Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. If you see someone – a friend, a classmate, a student – struggling, anonymous care reports can be submitted to Student Support Services.