By Mike Wade  |  NRVCS

Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, according to 2017 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sadly, overall rates of suicide have gradually been increasing over the past decade – including here in Virginia.

Because no community is truly immune to this issue, officials with Tri-Area Community Health Centers and NRVCS (New River Valley Community Services) are teaming up to raise awareness of suicide prevention and mental health issues specifically for the Floyd County community. The two agencies plan to host a free event for community members on Tuesday, September 24 from 4 – 7 p.m. at Floyd County High School.

Dr. Joshua Bradley, Director of Behavioral Health for Tri-Area, says he hopes the event will encourage local residents to be more open to the idea of seeking professional help when they find themselves challenged by mental health issues – particularly if they are having suicidal thoughts.

“Mental illness can be very isolating,” notes Dr. Bradley, “and withdrawing from your family, friends, and support system often just makes those problems worse.”

“It’s very important to remind folks who are struggling that they are not alone and help is available,” he adds.

The event at Floyd County High School is open to all ages and will include activities that both children and adults can participate in, including inspirational rock painting, creating messages of hope, and completing a value  card sort. Free depression screenings and information about local resources will be available. Those who attend also will have an opportunity to meet providers with both Tri-Area and NRVCS.

“We wanted to seize the opportunity of September being observed as National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and really get the community to be more mindful of this issue,” says Mike Wade, Community Wellness and Outreach Coordinator for NRVCS. “Unfortunately, stigma is still a huge barrier for folks who struggle with mental health disorders. So, it’s important that we all find ways to increase our understanding and compassion.”

If you are concerned about someone, Bradley and Wade explain that it’s important to be direct in asking that person if they plan to harm themselves.

“It’s obviously a very difficult conversation to have,” acknowledges Dr. Bradley, “but research shows that people who are having thoughts of suicide actually feel a sense of relief when someone asks them about that in a caring manner.”

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 by calling 1-800-273-8255. Locally, NRVCS offers the Raft Hotline for 24/7 empathy and support at 540-961-8400. (Wade adds this number also can be used for referrals and first appointments.) Tri-Area’s clinic in Floyd can be reached at 540-745-9290.