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"Suicide statistics grim reminder of need for Suicide Prevention Month" news article

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Story Highlights
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death among all Americans and #2 for ages 10 to 34.

  • There were 41,149 suicides in 2013 in the United States or one every 13 minutes

  • Males are four times more likely to commit suicide than females and represent 78% of suicides

  • Females are more likely to have suicidal thoughts. (Source: Center for Disease Control)

Eleven Lebanon County residents have taken their lives this year, according to the county’s top mental health administrator, a sobering reminder of the importance of raising suicide prevention awareness.

Toward that goal, the Lebanon County Suicide Prevention Task Force is sponsoring a number of free events in September to commemorate World Suicide Prevention Month.

The task force was started more than a decade ago and is composed of mental health officials from the county and area hospitals, and representatives from school districts and local social service agencies. In recent years it has increased its effort to raise suicide prevention awareness after a record-setting number of 26 suicides occurred in Lebanon County in 2013.

This year’s suicide numbers through mid-August are less than half that, but still demonstrate that efforts to prevent them are needed, said task force member Kevin Schrum, the director of Lebanon County Mental Health, Intellectual Disabilies/Early Intervention.

“We have seen ups and downs in the suicide rates in our county but we continue to do what we can to prevent suicides,” Schrum said when speaking last week to the Lebanon County commissioners.

“One suicide is too many, and we will work until we reach zero.”

More: Youth suicide rates are rising. School and the Internet may be to blame.

Those who have taken their own lives this year fit a pattern seen in the past, Schrum said.

All 11 of the victims were males, and eight or nine were Caucasian, he said. The only two who were not middle-aged were a 19-year-old and a man in his 80s.

"Generally the profile that we see is middle aged white males who died by firearm," Schrum said. "That trend continues. I believe the average age for this year is in the low-to mid-50s."

Kevin Schrum and Holly Leahy, members of Lebanon County Suicide Prevention Task Force and administrators at MH/ID/EI, tell county commissioners about events planned in September for Suicide Prevention Month. (Photo: John Latimer, Lebanon Daily News)

The victims also shared societal factors that led them to take their own life, Schrum said.

"We do see common themes in their backgrounds of either financial issues, domestic issues, those are common threads in that population as well," he said.

Unlike younger people who can be educated in school about warning signs of suicide and how to prevent it, it is difficult to reach the population that statistics say are most prone to it, Schrum told the commissioners.

"We do a lot of discussion about how we can reach that population specifically," he said. "It is a difficult population to reach directly."

The events it is sponsoring in September are ways the task force is hoping to meet that challenge, said Holly Leahy, director of mental health services at Lebanon County MH/ID/EI.

They include unstructured community events like lighting a window candle at 8 p.m. on Saturday Sept. 10 to commemorate World Suicide Prevention Day.

The keystone event of the month, however, is an initiative called "You Matter" that will be launched with a week long visit from LeAnn Hull, a suicide prevention advocate and founder of Andy Hull's Sunshine Foundation, an organization she started after her son took his life.

"She is an accomplished business woman but also a mother who lost her 16-year-old son to suicide about five years ago," Leahy said. "She has now dedicated her life to suicide prevention and awareness and traveling the country to talk about her experience and how it can help others.”

Hull will be visiting the county the week of Sept. 18 to share her story, Leahy said.

"All public schools will be having her during that week doing assemblies with youth (and) parent nights," she said.

There will also be a panel discussion with Hull and local mental health experts that will be open to the public held on Sept. 21 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Church of the Good Shepherd, 1500 Quentin Road.

To close out the month, on Sept. 28 there will be a Remembrance Ceremony from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Remembrance Garden behind the Nature Barn in Stoever's Dam Park.

If you are interested in memorializing someone who was lost to suicide by adding a brick to the garden, contact county MH/ID/EI at 717-274-3415.

Suicide Prevention Training

Several classes are also being offered during Sucide Prevention Month they include:

  • Mental Health First Aid Training on Sept. 12 and QPR - Question, Persuade, Refer -training that will be held on Sept 26. Both will day long classes will be held at the county MH/ID/EI office at 220 E. Lehman St. in Lebanon on Sept. 12. To register call 717-274-3415 or email

  • A two day class called "Recovery Training for Professionals" will also be held at the MH/ID/EI office on Sept. 14-15. To register call Recovery InSight at 877-597-9497, ext. 10.

  • A Wellness Recovery Action Plan course will also be held for individuals who are in recovery to create their own WRAP plan to assist them in being successful in the community. The8-week course will be held every Monday beginning Sept. 11 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Halcyon Activities Center, 728 Walnut St., Lebanon. To register call Recovery InSight at 877-597-9497, ext. 10.

Are you or someone you know contemplating suicide?

Nationwide suicide is the number 10 most common cause of death, with more than 40,000 each year, according to the Center for Disease Control. Those who attempt killing themselves tops 1 million annually.

There are many resources where those contemplating suicide or their family members and friends can turn to. They include:

Crisis Intervention Information and Referral Center, 717-274-3363. A 24-hour/7 day hotline.

Lebanon County Mental Health/Intellectual Disability/Early Intervention Office, 717-274-3415, M-F, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Mental Health Association of Lebanon County, 717-273-5781, M-F, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Or simply call 2-1-1, the United Way of Lebanon County's social services information line.

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