1. Health

Numbers reflect groups' drive to prevent suicides

TAMPA — The numbers can't restore the lives of those gone.

They can't mend the broken hearts of loved ones who grieve.

They can't help family and friends solve questions that have no answers.

But the numbers can illustrate why the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay and the Tampa Bay Suicide Prevention Task Force will recognize World Suicide Prevention Day on Saturday.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

•One suicide was committed every 13 minutes in 2013.

• For people ages 15-34 in the United States, suicide is the second leading cause of death.

•An estimated 9.3 million adults in the nation reported having suicidal thoughts in 2013.

Add to those numbers the reported high rate of suicide among veterans, and it's appropriate for the event to be held at James A. Haley VA Medical Center, starting at 2 p.m. Saturday. It's equally important, said Crisis Center president and CEO Clara Reynolds, to take a message of prevention to the public.

"It's so important we provide more education, provide more awareness to the general population on how they can help other people," Reynolds said. "Connect, Communicate, Care is the theme of World Suicide Prevention Day and it's important that each person realizes they can help deal with this public health crisis."

Reynolds said that while some may be daunted by the task of talking to someone who seems distant, disconnected or depressed, it's important to have the conversation and ask simple but key questions: How are you feeling? Are you okay?

"Talking about how they're feeling goes a long way," Reynolds said. "If we don't ask the questions, if we don't engage, we're not going to know."

She added that if a friend or family member senses the conversation has gone beyond their capacity to help, they can ask the person to call 211, the Crisis Center's hotline that offers a variety of services, including suicide prevention. The center expects an uptick in calls during September, suicide prevention month.

"There have been studies proving that people want to feel connected to someone and often times that may be someone on the other end of the phone," said Kelli Deaton, a member of the suicide prevention task force. "If we can keep someone safe for now with safety planning and limiting access to means, then that person may think twice."

The center also offers an extensive list of suicide warning signs and symptoms on its site that can be found using this link

Reynolds said helping people involves the recognition that mental illness falls into the same category as any other sickness and people have to push beyond the stigmas and beyond the shame when trying to help.

"If someone has a broken arm, I know to refer them to a doctor or an ER," Reynolds said. "Someone contemplating suicide also is sick, also is hurting and when they are we have to know where to send them."

For those struggling with negative thoughts, Saturday's event will feature a number of interactive displays that provide techniques for coping and building resiliency, plus a demonstration of self-care and relaxation techniques.