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Let’s start a suicide-prevention dialogue

By: Carol Feineman, Editor Lincoln News Messenger
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If you are in crisis, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

National suicide prevention hotline.

 

No one likes talking about suicide. But it’s something we have to discuss.

On Jan. 19, Alexis Herrera was Lincoln’s fourth young man since summer 2011 to kill himself. The 19-year-old resident took his life on Jan. 19 near Auburn Creek on First Street.

We ran a front-page story (“19-year-old resident takes his life. Community wrestles with how to prevent more teen suicides”) on Jan. 24 for three reasons.

First, we wanted to let community members know how they could help Herrera’s family and friends cope during this heart-wrenching time. While nothing will bring their son, brother or peer back, hopefully we can let them know we’re here for them.

Second, we wanted to show how school and police representatives are trying to prevent future suicides.

Third, several community members are blogging about it, out of sadness and a feeling of helplessness or being overwhelmed.

So I was surprised to receive an anonymous and angry phone call last Thursday. A woman left a message, but no call-back phone number, saying she would cancel her newspaper subscription because of our story about Herrera.

But we can’t pretend these tragedies didn’t happen.

Rather, we have to look at why the youth killed themselves so that we can learn from these tragedies and prevent others from happening.

No one wants to read about someone taking their life, especially a teen who has his whole life in front of him.

For the sake of all the other Lincoln youth, though, we have to address this subject.

Because we don’t want youth, plus their family and friends, to go through the pain from this unretractable action.

“I believe people are talking more about suicides,” said Melinda Pickerel, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention board chairwoman for the Greater Sacramento Area chapter, this week. “The more publicity there is in the news, it brings people out. There is always greatness in numbers when people have like issues and they don’t have to deal with it alone.”

Pickerel, who lost her oldest son to suicide, wants the community to publicly and frequently discuss the subject.

“So many people from the older generation never talked about it because of the stigma or they were embarrassed or angry, they thought if they said they lost a loved one, you could see a blank stare go on people’s faces and they won’t know what to say,” Pickerel said. “But suicide today is reported a lot in the military, teen suicide has been increasing, also in elderly, law enforcement; it crosses all borders.”

A few ideas Pickerel gave for the Lincoln community to actively participate in the discussion of suicide prevention include setting up a community suicide-prevention task force and holding community town hall meetings.

She said the Sacramento chapter would help.

Two of Lincoln’s community leaders, Western Placer Unified School District President Kris Wyatt and Lincoln Police Officer Steve Krueger, are working on a community outreach plan.

“We are talking not only amongst ourselves but we are reaching out to other resources. It will take time to organize but we are looking at all factors. The whole community needs assistance ... little ones, our teens, parents, neighbors community leaders, etc.,” Wyatt said. “Suicide prevention is so important and we can’t just talk about it today and think it will be OK tomorrow. Just know that prevention is foremost in our minds and we will keep talking and reaching out.”

Sources quoted in last week’s story indicated that Herrera seemed OK. They didn’t know that he felt so troubled.

How many more young men and women in the area are also struggling with life-threatening issues?

We can’t just conveniently forget about the possibility of suicides.

Because four young Lincoln men, since 2011, are no longer with us.

And it’s each of our responsibility - as parents, siblings and friends - to make sure that area youth know there are better ways to solve their problems.

We need to be proactive now so that no more of our youth reach the point of no return.

Join Wyatt, Krueger and other community leaders in finding a solution.

“Sometimes, we are so involved and wrapped up in the situation that we fail to ‘get’ what folks want to know,” Wyatt said. “What kind of outreach do people need - information, signs, maybe hear from a parent that has gone through losing a child to suicide, what can they do to help, how do parents talk to their children, how does a teen help a friend and the list goes on and on?”

To give suggestions, e-mail Wyatt at k_wyatt@wildblue.net or Shoni Jones at The News Messenger at messenger@goldcountrymedia.com.

We’ll report on the community outreach as long as it takes to solve the issue.

While it’s not easy, this topic needs to be discussed regularly so that we can help our neighbors who believe there is no other way to relieve their anguish.

Together, we will come up with solutions that work.