The 5 Q's: Del Camp, Debbie Fitzgerald recognize suicide prevention efforts

·5 min read

Sep. 4—In this weekly feature, we put five questions before someone in the community. Today, we chat with Del Camp and Debbie Fitzgerald, of Ozark Center.

1. What is the purpose of National Suicide Prevention Week and Month in September?

Suicide is the most preventable leading cause of death worldwide. Although suicide prevention is important every day, in the United States, National Suicide Prevention Month happens every September. National Suicide Prevention Week occurs the week after Labor Day. For 2023, World Suicide Prevention Day occurs on Sept. 10.

During this time every fall, friends, family, schools, faith-based groups, medical health care organizations and behavioral health professionals come together to educate others on warning signs of suicide, ways to intervene during a crisis and how to support survivors who are left behind. It is a time to advocate for those struggling with thoughts of self-harm and ending their lives, provide hope to those feeling hopeless and encourage those struggling themselves or those who know someone who is to seek help.

Research has consistently shown there are likely 25 attempts for each documented death by suicide. Warning signs of suicide can vary from person to person. Most generally, those struggling with thoughts of ending their lives are feeling hopeless and begin to contemplate suicide as a solution to the pain of living. Although there is no single risk factor or reason for someone to take their life, risk factors for suicide can include having depression, a substance use disorder, relationship issues, anxiety or a serious health condition, poor performance within school or at work, significant loss, feeling like they are a burden to others and any personal traumas.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has a campaign that runs from Sept. 4 through Sept. 10 that promotes the belief that "suicide prevention begins with all of us," "you are not alone," as well as an Out of the Darkness Walk.

2. How does Ozark Center promote suicide prevention?

Ozark Center has been active in suicide prevention for more than 20 years. We have had community events in the park to support survivors of suicide; provided evidence-based suicide prevention trainings such as Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) for adults and youth, Question, Persuade and Refer (QPR) for adults, and Counseling on Access to Lethal Means (CALM) and Signs of Suicide (SOS) training for youth; participated in many media forums; and participated in the Out of the Darkness Walk.

Ozark Center is an active member of the Missouri Suicide Prevention Network. Ozark Center has been a call center for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and as of July 16, it became one of 200 crisis call centers nationwide for the new 988 number, with a specialty in addressing the unique needs of veterans.

3. Where does Missouri rank in suicide rates compared to the rest of the country?

In 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the United States lost 45,979 individuals to suicide. This averages one person every 11.5 minutes. Missouri lost 1,125 citizens to suicide, making it the ninth leading cause of death. Missouri suicide rates have been consistently higher than the national average, and the state ranked 16th in the nation for suicide deaths in 2020.

Of the 125 suicides per day nationwide, 20 to 23 of these individuals were active service personnel and veterans. Missouri veteran suicide rates have been nearly three times higher than the U.S. general population. Ozark Center has the Veteran Integration Program (VIP) to serve as a resource for local veterans in addition to the specialized focus, staffing and training available to veterans calling the 988 crisis line. The trend for Missouri has been higher suicide rates over the past 10 years, with the exception of 2019, which showed a slight decrease.

4. What age groups in Missouri have the highest rates of suicide?

Most suicides in Missouri occur between ages 25 and 64. However, suicide knows no boundaries and can strike at any age, in any socioeconomic class.

5. Where can individuals seek help if they're experiencing thoughts or feelings of suicide?

Ozark Center covers Barton, Jasper, Newton and McDonald counties, and any community member may contact us at our local crisis line, 417-347-7720, or by dialing 988. You may text us at 720-789-8695 with the message REGISTER. You will then be enrolled in our TXTAboutIt electronic crisis messaging system. Our Ozark Center motto is, "We Listen, We Care." We are available 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.

If you call us or text us, you will reach a highly trained and empathetic crisis specialist who can answer questions, support someone through a crisis, provide brief education, supportive counseling and referrals, or coordinate a mobile response specialist to see the individual in crisis within the community or at our crisis center. All crisis services through Ozark Center are free of charge. Community members can also access Urgent Behavioral Services from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 1 to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

It has been estimated that 12 million Americans have serious thoughts of suicide in any given year, but the good news is that any individual having these thoughts can be helped past this period. We know treatment works, so do not shy away from asking someone you care about if they are OK. Be bold enough to connect them to someone who can help and let them know that you care; you can be that lifeboat for someone and save a life. A suicide crisis is temporary in nature and can be survived, and there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Del Camp is the chief clinical officer and Debbie Fitzgerald is the director of crisis services at Ozark Center, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization and an entity of Freeman Health System that provides behavioral health services.