Prevention starts with more talk, awareness

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Suicide... The Silent Killer (Second in a series)

By Kayla Swanson and Stephen Thomas

  Suicide. Death. Cancer. What do these three things have in common? No one wants to talk about them. 

While suicide and cancer are both part of the top 10 leading causes of death nationally, making the public aware of these issues is a struggle. 

Karl Laves, assistant director of counseling and testing services at Western Kentucky University, said there are a variety of different reasons why people don’t talk about suicide. 

The first reason, Laves said, is that Western society puts a taboo or judgment on suicide. 

“You don’t want to talk about it for fear of that judgment,” he said. 

Bullitt County Public Schools psychologist Kelly Shanks believed a lack of preventative methods and procedures, along with people remaining unwilling to discuss suicide, led to lack of assistance for those considering drastic action.

“People don’t really know how big an issue it is, unless it affects them,” said Shanks. There’s a stigma attached to it. There’s a big myth that if you say it, you’ll push someone into it. Actually, it gives them an opportunity to seek help.”

People don’t see the taking of one’s life as a natural thing, Laves said, and throughout time people, including religious denominations, would view suicide as sinful or shameful. 

Mount Washington resident Missy Gousha, whose son Michael died by suicide in 2005, believed the main focus should be taking the stigma off of suicide. 

Gousha said younger kids don’t want to talk with their friends about it because they don’t want the friend to get mad. 

“I would rather have a mad friend alive than dead,” Gousha said. 

Laves said people also want to put serious things off, like preventive exams for cancer or getting help for depression or suicidal thoughts. 

“A lot of people are reluctant to talk about anything that requires outside help,” he said.  

Seven Counties Services clinical supervisor Geneva Robinson said the most important thing people can do to help someone with suicidal thoughts was to talk with them. Sometimes people can be embarrassed bringing up the topic themselves. 

“If you care about someone and you’re concerned about them, you need to initiate the conversation,” Robinson said. 

Seven Counties Services, Inc., CEO Anthony Zipple said those who attempt suicide and survive might not have many visitors in the hospital because people don’t know how to talk to survivors. 

“There’s reluctance and the stigma is enormous,” he said. 

In an effort to get people to talk about suicide, Zipple said suicide prevention would be a focus of Seven Counties’ 2014 platform. 

“We’re trying to get the right people around the table to start talking,” he said. 

In Bullitt County, the health department has formed a local prevention group called Bullitt County CARES (Community Addressing the Reduction and Elimination of Suicide). 

Formed in the spring of 2013, Bullitt County CARES started with high attendance numbers. However, those numbers continued to decrease during summer months.

Organizers have attempted meetings at different dates and times hoping to increase attendance. The group is also looking for a volunteer coordinator.

Bullitt County CARES will meet Monday, Aug. 26, 2 p.m., at the Health Department Annex Building. The public is invited to attend. If successful, the meetings will continue on the fourth Monday of each month.

Time is also a factor in getting people to talk about death by suicide. Laves said as more people talk about any topic, like suicide, small groups, usually state or federally funded, form next to discuss the topic.

When a topic becomes popular, Laves said the media addresses it and the issue becomes mainstream. He said society is in a stage of public education in terms of death by suicide, with the media not yet addressing it in full. 

“We don’t want to glamorize suicide, we don’t want to sensationalize it, but we need to talk about it,” he said. “You can’t talk someone into suicide, but you can talk someone who’s thinking about it out of it.” 

For more information about Bullitt County CARES call 955-5355.



Read part one of the series here.

Read part three here.

Read part four here.

Read part five here.

Read part six here.

Read part seven here.