SIKESTON - For some, suicide seems like the only way out. In 1998, the latest available date from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 30,575 Americans took their lives by suicide.
In Missouri alone, 6,400 people died as a result of suicide from 1990-1998. According to the Missouri Department of Mental Health, the number of suicides during that time frame in Mississippi County was 16, 49 in Scott County, 24 in New Madrid County and 28 in Stoddard County, making them among the highest in the state.
But help is on the way. The Dexter Community Regional Healthcare Foundation, in partnership with Bootheel Counseling Services, is one of four agencies recently awarded a suicide prevention grant. The money is part of a $150,000 grant received by the Missouri Department of Health to fund statewide suicide prevention services for youths and elderly persons in Scott, New Madrid, Mississippi and Stoddard counties.
This comes after a national report on suicide by the U.S. surgeon general, who called for suicide prevention and awareness.
"The taking of one's life is very tragic," said Joseph Parks, M.D., medical director for the Missouri Department of Mental Health's Division of Comprehensive Psychiatric Services.
"Knowing the warning signs and making sure proper treatment is available will help people who may be in crises."Parks explained the "National Strategy for Suicide Prevention: Goals and Objectives for Action" presents an outline for action and guides development of a variety of services and programs not yet set in motion.
"The report, which outlines 11 specific goals, strives to promote and provide direction in an effort to modify the social infrastructure in ways that will affect the most basic attitudes about suicide," he said.
Taryn LeGrand-Lovett, clinical director at Bootheel Counseling Services, said the funds will be around $35,000 for a one-year period. They will be used to provide the staff an opportunity to educate the community about the indicators and risk factors for those who think about suicide.
"A major focus through this grant is to educate student populations and the elderly population," she said. "As well, we want to educate the professionals and others who are in contact with these populations, such as agency staff, school personnel, parents and peers. These efforts will increase the awareness about risk factors and indicators of suicide and promote healthy ways of addressing these issues."
Statistics report feeling the need to make that desperate final choice is the third leading cause of death among people ages 15-24, behind unintentional injury and homicide.
The 1999 official final data of U.S. suicides reports young people committed suicide at a rate of 10.3, which is an average of one young person every two hours and 14.7 minutes.
From, 1952-1995, the incidence of suicide among adolescents and young adults nearly tripled.
The same data reported individuals ages 65 and older committed suicide at a rate of 15.9. That is an average of one senior citizen every hour and 35.8 minutes.
LeGrand-Lovett said considering or choosing suicide comes from those who may feel they have no other options, possibly having exhausted the coping skills needed to deal with stress and daily pressures.
She reported each month Bootheel Counseling Services sees five to eight individuals who indicate an active plan to commit suicide. In those cases, the staff offers emotional support, safety planning and hospitalization when necessary.
Others indicate having thoughts of suicide or who have made past attempts.
"It is not a matter that the person contemplating wants to commit suicide, but more a matter that they have a perception that their current situation is a hopeless one and do not see other viable options." she said. "They have a bleak picture of what the future holds for them or are not looking toward the future at all."
She added most people who are depressed do not kill themselves.
Risk factors include one or more diagnosable mental or substance abuse disorder, being impulsive, adverse life events, family history of mental or substance abuse disorders, family history of suicide, family violence including physical or sexual abuse, prior suicide attempts, lethal means in the home and exposure to suicide behavior of others including family, peers, someone in the news or fiction stories.
"While it can be difficult to discuss such an issue, it is vitally important that when a person makes comments about suicide, that they are taken seriously and directed toward the help they need," LeGrand-Lovett stated.
The state health department reports suicide is the ninth leading cause of death in Missouri, costing the state an estimated $2.2 billion each year.