Suicide awareness day comes as Greene County suicides rising

Published: Sep. 10, 2016 at 6:56 PM CDT
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Saturday is world suicide prevention day.

Nationally, more than 42 thousand people die from suicide every year.

Missouri has the 18th highest suicide rate in the nation, while Arkansas is 16th.

While news media reports every murder, we don't usually report suicides, for fear of encouraging them.

That also means the public may not understand how big a problem suicide is. Nationally, the suicide rate is the highest it's been in 30 years.

In Missouri, suicide is more than twice as common as homicide.

In 2014, there were 52 confirmed suicides in Greene County, and last year, that number rose dramatically, to 79.

"The suicide rates in Greene County are already trending to be higher than they were last year," says Stephanie Appleby, director of marketing for the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Southwest Missouri. It's one of the local organizations trying to prevent suicides.

"I get frustrated cause I'm like why are we not talking about this more? This is such a huge problem," says Appleby.

She too has struggled with mental illness and suicidal thoughts.

"When depression starts interfering with your everyday life is a huge sign that you need to get some help and you need to talk with somebody," Appleby says.

For 14 years, Appleby was agoraphobic, locked up in her room, afraid to experience a panic attack if she came out.

"In my mind I got to the point where my family would be better off with me gone," says Appleby.

She says when she reached bottom, her husband saved her life.

"It didn't just go away, but I made the decision that living with a mental illness untreated was far worse than dealing with the side-effects of a medication," says Appleby.

Now, she's on medication and has found her purpose.

"There's a lot of healing in helping other people," says Appleby, who began volunteering at NAMI before being offered a position.

She's passionate about raising awareness that suicide can be a symptom of mental illness. She says it can be driven by chemicals in the brain, and like other mental illness, it can run in a family.

"It's not that they want to die, it's not a selfish act. It's they're hurting so bad, that they just want the pain to end," says Appleby.

Appleby says it's okay to ask your loved one if they are suicidal, and if they have planned their death.

"Just starting that conversation with somebody, investing time with them, showing that you care, is huge," says Appleby. She encourages people to reach out to someone who is struggling, and ask if there is a way you can help.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

See links in the upper-right corner for websites with information about suicide prevention.