Area agencies focus suicide prevention on men
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. Because more men than women commit suicide every year, the executive directors of the mental health and recovery boards in Trumbull and Mahoning counties want men to know that having the courage to ask for help is not a sign of weakness.
In 2017, 83 percent of the 40 people in Trumbull County who committed suicide were men. In 2018, 85 percent of the 28 residents who completed suicide were men, April Caraway, executive director of the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board, said.
And 2019 is on track to have more suicides in Trumbull County than in 2018, Caraway said.
“Relationship and employment issues are the primary causes of a person seeing suicide as an option. We are trying to reach out to people and get them the help they need before that happens,” Caraway said. “While sometimes problems can seem insurmountable, problems really are temporary, but death is forever.”
In order to reduce the stigma associated with men seeking help for their mental health, Caraway and Duane Piccirilli, executive director of the Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Board, are focusing their awareness campaigns on men and highlighting MenTherapy.org, an outreach website designed to break the ice when discussing emotional pain with men.
With articles and segments titled “Shouldn’t Men Keep Their Feelings to Themselves?” the website strives to communicate tough ideas about seeking help by normalizing the topics.
“A lot of guys treat anxiety like they treat a dog begging for a pork chop. They ignore it and hope it goes away. Unfortunately, this strategy rarely works. If left untreated, anxiety will not only get worse, it may lead to a bunch of other nasty mental and physical ailments, including heart disease,” the website states.
Traumatic life events, genetics and substance use disorders can be the root of some mental health issues, and stress plays a “major role” in “almost all anxiety sufferers,” the website states.
“That’s because stress can lead to an imbalance of anxiety regulating neurotransmitters (fancy word for brain chemicals), such as noradrenaline, serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid. When these chemicals become out of whack, life-altering anxiety could be the result.”
“From the time boys are young, they are taught not to show emotion and are told having feelings or asking for help is a sign of weakness,” Piccirilli said.
In 2018, there were 41 suicides in Mahoning County; 32 were men. More women attempt suicide, but men complete it more often because they chose more violent means, Piccirilli said.
Piccirilli said the mental health board developed a public service commercial to focus on the issue.
“I think we need to start the conversation and start talking directly to the people most at risk,” Piccirilli said.
The Trumbull County Suicide Prevention Coalition meets at 3 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month, including today, at the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board to develop prevention and awareness activities to reduce suicides in the community, Caraway said.
Anyone that needs help can contact the Help Network by dialing 211, 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Trained counselors answer the phones.
Many men find it easier to talk about their feeling anonymously, Piccirilli said. People can text 741741 for text-based anonymous help on the Crisis Text Line.
Unresolved trauma can spiral into mental health issues, Piccirilli said.
“We always need to try to remember, what happened to you is not what is wrong with you. You are more than what happened to you. And what happened to you is what brought you to this point — that does not mean something is irreparably wrong,” Piccirilli said.
Local events are planned to highlight the issue.
The 2019 Youngstown Out of the Darkness Walk is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 21 at the Wick Recreation Area in Mill Creek Park, 1861 McCollum Road, Youngstown. Register at www.afsp.org/ Youngstown.
The WR22 Veteran Suicide Awareness Walk is 7 p.m. Oct. 3 at Western Reserve High School, 13850 Akron Canfield Road, Berlin Center. Gates open at 6 p.m. The 2.2-mile walk on the track is to bring awareness to the 22 veterans who kill themselves in the United States every day.
Call organizer Robin Adams at 330-207-0985 for more information or for a registration form, or visit the WR22 Veteran Suicide Awareness Walk page on Facebook. Food trucks will be there, and T-shirts are available for purchase.
Adams said she concentrated on veteran suicides because so many who served end their lives.
“It is alarming what is happening. The come home from the battlefield, but the day-to-day battle doesn’t stop. The stigma needs to end. We owe them everything,” Adams said.