Springfield community working to prevent suicide with “Start Talking” message

Hampden County

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – It is National Suicide Prevention Week, an annual week-long campaign to raise awareness about suicide prevention and to reduce stigma around the topic and encourage those in need to utilize available resources.

The Mental Health Association (MHA) in Springfield hosted a live event Wednesday to draw attention to the message “Start Talking”, to encourage the conversations that can help prevent suicide.

“We are certainly seeing some research coming out that is suggesting that people are more likely to be thinking about suicide right now which is very concerning,” said Sarah Gaer, Chair of the Pioneer Valley Coalition for Suicide Prevention.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the nation and with the coronavirus pandemic, experts fear suicide numbers are rising, but there are ways you can help.

“Suicide is preventable when people start talking,” said Jennifer Kelliher, Managing Director of the Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention (MCSP). “Every September, we highlight this message through National Suicide Prevention Week—although it is important that our work and our message continue year round. Community awareness and breaking the silence with public service announcements and messages, such as the mobile message board sponsored by the Mental Health Association, and those available on MCSP’s social media, can help people understand how important it is to start a conversation, either when they are concerned about someone they care about, or when they are struggling themselves. We need to break the silence around suicide—in September, but also year-round.”

Statistics provided by MHA from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health indicates the rate of suicides continues to increase. In Massachusetts, 535 males (16.1 per 100,000) and 153 females (4.3 per 100,000) took their own lives during 2017. Suicide rates were highest among middle aged white men 45 to 54 years (23.2 per 100,000) and 55 to 64 years (20.4 per 100,000).

“Be available, be available to start a conversation. We have a slogan that we utilize called Start Talking, which is based on the concept of being able to ask a question to a loved one, to a peer, to a coworker how they are feeling with their mental health” said Sara Kendall, MSW, LICSW, VP Clinical Operations for MHA.

You’ll see this truck with a message board attached driving throughout Hampden County delivering suicide prevention messaging.

Mychael Connolly, will be driving the visual medium. He recently lost a close friend to suicide, “I had no idea he was going through stuff. He was smiling, he was himself. To be a part of this and To help someone else That’s the whole thing behind it. If we could help one, two or three people that’s an impact.”

If you or your loved ones have talked about inflicting self-harm, display extreme mood swings, talk about feeling hopeless or trapped, seek help immediately. Call the Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-8255.

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