University of Maine at Machias will hold events in recognition of National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month in September
In September, the University of Maine at Machias will host multiple events designed to increase awareness and support for individuals and families affected by suicide and suicidal ideation.
The lawn bordering College Hill will be the site of an outdoor Suicide Memorial/Awareness Display featuring pinwheels representing lives lost annually to suicide in Maine.
College Hill will also feature a Suicide Memorial/Support Tree wrapped with colored lights — purple for those lost by suicide, blue for those who support suicide prevention/awareness and green for those presently struggling with suicidal thoughts. Students, faculty, staff and community members may use the provided materials at the tree to write supportive messages or to remember a loved one who died by their own hand.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that the rate of suicide in Maine, like the nation as a whole, has been increasing since 2006. An average of 273 Maine citizens die by suicide each year.
The suicide rate in Maine is higher than any other northeastern state and is 15% to 20% above the national rate. A Maine citizen is ten times more likely to die by suicide than from homicide.
In a 2021 CDC report (cited in the MMWR and Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, April 2, 2021), researchers found the number of adults with recent symptoms of an anxiety or depressive disorder increased from 36.4% to 41.5%, while the percentage of individuals reporting unmet mental health care needs increased from 9.2% to 11.7% between August 2020 and February 2021.
“As mental health problems continue to increase due to various factors — stress from economic struggles, access to health care, relationship difficulties, etc. — so do the risks of people taking their own lives,” says Stacey Cherry, a mental health counselor at UMaine Machias. “Raising awareness and preventing suicide will require help from everyone, not just mental health professionals. Anyone can sit and listen to someone. Just listening can help save a life.”
On Sept. 10, World Suicide Prevention Day, there will be information on suicide prevention and awareness posted to the UMaine Machias Counseling Center Facebook page. Individuals are encouraged to light candles in their windows at 8 p.m. and change their social media profile pictures to lit candles as a show of awareness and support. Similarly, campus residents can place an item that safely admits a flameless glow in their windows.
Students, faculty, staff and community members are invited to a suicide prevention and awareness presentation and discussion led by Cherry on Sept. 13 from 6-7:30 p.m., UMaine Machias Torrey Hall, room 228. The event will focus on basic attitudes and beliefs about suicide, risk factors, warning signs, and simple interventions and approaches to intervene with someone who may be contemplating suicide.
The annual Out of the Darkness Walk will take place Sept. 20. This is a nationwide walk and is designed to help give people the courage to open up about their own struggles or losses, as well as a platform to change our culture’s approach to mental health. In Machias, the walk will begin at 6:30 p.m. in front of the Performing Arts Center on campus and end at the foot of College Hill at the Suicide Memorial/Support Tree, where there will be a candlelight vigil. Participants can also opt to share their thoughts and reflect on their direct or indirect experiences with suicide. Participants are encouraged to wear T-shirts and/or make signs in support of suicide prevention and awareness.
For more information about these events or to request reasonable accommodation, call 207.255.1343.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, call AMHC Crisis Services, 1.888.568.1112 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 988 (call or text) or Chat at 988lifeline.org.