West Central Illinois residents are coming together this evening to recognize National Suicide Prevention Week.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the United States experienced a 24 percent increase in suicide rates from 1999 to 2014. Suicide effects people of all ages, genders and ethnicities, and with September being National Suicide Prevention Month, Jacksonville is hosting a “Walk Out of the Darkness” event tonight on the downtown square.
Tonight’s event is organized by the Morgan-Scott Suicide Prevention Coalition, and is geared towards honoring loved ones and bringing awareness to suicide prevention.
Sherri McLaughlin serves as a counselor at Jacksonville High School, and is involved with the Walk Out of the Darkness. She discusses tonight’s walk, and what people can expect.
“We have a short program, so there will be some music, the JHS choir is going to sing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow.’ We do have someone that has been a victim of a loss to suicide that is going to speak. Reverend Lyons from Winchester is going to do a prayer. And then we have luminary bags so people can write the names of loved ones or survivors. It’s a celebration of those lives, of those people that we lost. Even though we lost them to suicide and sometimes people think you can’t talk about them, they lived, and we want to celebrate their life, and we want people to remember them as they would for any loved one,” says McLaughlin.
McLaughlin says the coalition seeks to prevent suicide as well as provide support to those who’ve lost loved ones to suicide. She also touches on the need for mental health relief here in Morgan County.
“It is difficult, sometimes they don’t display any warning signs and it comes out of nowhere. That’s where people start saying ‘was there something I could have done to prevent this?’ So we do give examples of warning signs, but I also tell people ‘don’t feel guilty’ if something happens and you didn’t do something, because sometimes it’s not obvious. We tend to beat ourselves up when we think it’s something that could’ve been avoided, so even helping those that are survivors of victims of suicide to help them cope with their feelings. There was a Morgan County health needs assessment that was done, and of the top three needs, mental health came in second,” explains McLaughlin.
McLaughlin says often times the most effective way to approach someone showing suicidal tendencies is to be direct.
“The best thing you can do is just come right out and say ‘are you suicidal, are you having suicidal thoughts?’ A lot of people think that if they talk to them about it, that will put the idea in their head, but that idea is already there if they are suicidal. And they’re relieved a lot of times when somebody just says ‘are you thinking this?’ because they think, ‘oh my gosh, someone is going to address these thoughts in my head that I’m afraid to tell anyone else,” McLaughlin explains.
Tonight’s Walk Out of the Darkness takes place at Jacksonville’s downtown square from 7 to 9 o’clock. Participants are not required to register, and refreshments will be provided following the program. Those planning to participate are asked to wear purple and teal if possible.
If you know someone dealing with suicidal thoughts or tendencies, the Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255, or to find more information online, click here.