Local counselors reflect on National Suicide Prevention Month

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By Lori Berkey, Contributing Writer

Region – September is an exciting month as kids go back to school or away to college. It can also be a time when people feel overwhelmed by change and perhaps feel unable to cope. Although these feelings can occur any time of the year, the American Association of Suicidology (AAS) has chosen September as a time to ramp up its 365-days-a-year mission to prevent suicide by sponsoring National Suicide Prevention Month.

“As September is Suicide Prevention Month, I think it’s an important opportunity to reflect on what we can do as parents and educators to help our students remain strong mentally and emotionally,” said Christine Hilditch, adjustment counselor at Sgt. Charles J. Jaworek Elementary School in Marlborough.

“It’s important to know the symptoms of depression and what to do about them, as it is often these symptoms, when not addressed adequately, can lead to suicidal thinking and sometimes worse,” Hilditch added. She listed symptoms of depression that may indicate that a student is having significant emotional difficulty, including a hopeless outlook on life, seeing more negative than positive on a regular basis; loss of interest in things once enjoyed, increased fatigue and sleep problems; changes in appetite or weight; uncontrollable emotions; and constant worry or anxiety.

Sarah Cassell, a licensed mental health counselor and director of Southborough Youth and Family Services, wants people to realize that support is readily available.

“We would like Southborough and surrounding communities to know help is available and that you are not alone,” Cassell said. “Thoughts and feelings of suicide can be an overwhelming, scary, and an isolating experience. It’s so important to take the risk and share how you are feeling with someone you trust to get the support that you need. If you or someone you love is experiencing suicidality, we welcome you to give us a call.”

According to Cassell, Southborough Youth and Family Services provides direct one-on-one counseling services for Southborough residents with trained professionals and will also work with residents of any community to connect them with the long-term supports they need.

In the event of a psychiatric emergency, Cassell recommends Psychiatric Emergency Services offered through Advocates at 800-640-5432. Their crisis clinicians are available 24 hours a day for multiple communities including residents of Hopkinton, Hudson, Marlborough, Northborough, Southborough and Westborough.

The AAS stresses the importance of people knowing the warning signs of someone in acute risk for suicidal behavior. According to AAS the warning signs are as follows:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill him or herself, or talking of wanting to hurt or kill him/herself; and or,
  • Looking for ways to kill him/herself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means; and/or,
  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide, when these actions are out of the ordinary.

The AAS urges anyone observing these warning signs to seek help as soon as possible by contacting a mental health professional or calling 800-273-TALK (8255) for a referral.

Expanded warning signs the AAS alerts people to are:

  • Increased substance (alcohol or drug) use
  • No reason for living; no sense of purpose in life
  • Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all of the time
  • Feeling trapped – like there’s no way out
  • Hopelessness
  • Withdrawal from friends, family and society
  • Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
  • Dramatic mood changes

The AAS stresses the importance – if someone indicates or communicates suicidal thoughts – to get help immediately from a mental health professional or a professional in a hospital emergency department, or call 911.

To contact Southborough Youth and Family Services, call 508-481-5676.
For more information about what the AAS provides, visit www.suicidology.org.
For additional details about NAMI, visit www.nami.org.