by Leigh Friedman, JFCS Intern
JFCS, in partnership with the Cherry Hill Police Department, is proud to offer This Life Counts (TLC), a suicide prevention and awareness program starting this fall.
Suicide in America is becoming an epidemic. There is a death by suicide in the US every 13 minutes and Americans are more likely to kill themselves than each other. Although homicide has decreased in the US, the number of suicides keeps rising. Forty thousand American lives are lost each year, making suicide the nation’s 10th leading cause of death and the second-leading killer of those ages 15-24.
New Jersey’s suicide rate has seen a 13% increase since its historic low in 2012. Once the lowest of all states in 2012, the numbers of suicide in our geographic area has risen steadily with the sharpest increase among tweens. This is not only concerning, it is alarming.
According to USA Today, “… each suicide costs society about $1 million in medical and lost-work expenses and emotionally victimizes an average of 10 other people.” Children and teens feel an extreme pressure. Whether that pressure is to be smart, be successful at sports, or have good social standing- it is difficult to cope.
Nancy Lubars, LCSW, Child and Family Therapist at JFCS, says, “I believe we have a developed a culture in this country, in part because of social media, where it SEEMS as if everyone is happy with lots of invitations and tons of ‘friends’ and no one has problems or difficulties, which frowns upon negative emotions: anger, sadness, loneliness, etc. If a teen is feeling negatively, this is not considered ‘normal’ so they may not want to share these feelings with friends for fear of being different and they may not want to share with their parents for fear they will appear needy.” These factors mentioned contribute to what JFCS feels is a need to offer This Life Counts (TLC), a Suicide Prevention Awareness Program, to the community.
Through active involvement in the community, JFCS aims to shine a light on suicide prevention. Often considered a “taboo” subject, the topic of suicide will be openly discussed by exposing the warning signs and the myths, in the hopes of painting a landscape in which action can take place. Suicide is a public health issue and yet the National Institutes of Health – the largest source of research money – spends a small fraction on suicide as compared with other diseases.
JFCS Executive Director, Marla Meyers says, “Our new program TLC will offer parents, teens, and tweens an interactive, dynamic, and free workshop to learn about the issues, assess their own risk factors and to be in the know about ways to cope with anxiety and depression, and ultimately be able to prevent suicide.” By normalizing the conversation, mental health issues will begin to be recognized in a different way.
Suicide can be preventable and JFCS wants to educate people within the community by sharing a message of hope. “Through role-playing and other strategies, we want to create a safe place to talk and listen to one another so that similar conversations can be emulated in the home,” says Meyers.
JFCS is hopeful that at some valuable point in the future, each person whom will have attended the program will be able to reflect on what they have learned. Attending the panel, individuals will be able to take what they have learned and use that to make a choice that will save his or her life or someone else whose life is at risk. Suicide is a matter that is not being addressed as vigorously as it should be. As the numbers increase and more deaths occur in the community of South Jersey, JFCS sets forth to put an end to the “taboo” subject.