Suicide Prevention: Raising Awareness

(18-NEWS) -- Local suicide prevention in our area discuss the importance of keeping the mental health conversation alive to save lives.

According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, one in four American families has a relative suffering from a mental illness, less than half of which receive treatment.

Laurie Augustyniak who works at Glove House in Elmira has two children. Her son is 22 years old and the family celebrated her daughter Kelly’s birthday this past weekend. She would have turned 23 years old this year.

“I knew she was depressed, I just didn’t realize how depressed she was.”

Laurie’s daughter Kelly battled depression for years and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 19. She struggle to stay on her medication, and two years ago Kelly’s best friend alerted Mrs. Augustyniak of an alarming text message she had received from her daughter. In 2012 Laurie lost her daughter to suicide when she was just 21 years old.

"People don't realize, that depression, mental health issues, depression bipolar, they kill, just like cancer, or diabetes. She just felt like, this is it, I'm never going to be normal but, what's normal? Define normal, you know… so I think that people look at you differently, when you have a mental illness, and they look at you different when you have a suicide. I mean, people think that it's contagious."

A 2007 New York State Health Department Study reported that students in Chemung County had a suicide rate six times greater than the state average. (48 student suicides per capita compared to 8 student suicides per capita) Resolving to change the staggering statistics as well as the way people view mental health, local group ‘iMATTER’ formed the following year and has seen growth ever since.

Back in 2008, they threw a concert for youth struggling with mental health and saw an attendance of 300. This past weekend, they saw a turn out of 7-8,000 people. Founder Scott Lowmaster says he feels the change has been huge.

"The environment is changing from a culture of death to a culture of life where they actually can make life choices rather than choosing this permanent answer to a temporary problem."

Being aware of warning signs and open to discussion and treatment are some keys to preventing a loved one from taking their own life.

iMATTER Executive Director Dave King says it’s important to be observant of those in your life and have honest conversations about feelings.

"We need to give ourselves permission to have compassion and just kind of pull the blinders off and notice those around us that are just struggling, if you keep your eyes open you'll notice it."

To learn more about suicide prevention or to seek help for yourself or a loved one, please visit one of the links provided below for hotline, event and contact information:

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