During the month of September, communities across the country come together during National Suicide Prevention & Awareness Month to raise awareness and share resources in an effort to help prevent deaths by suicide. By sharing stories, knowing the warning signs and offering support, we can all break the stigma around suicide and help prevent these tragic deaths.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide rates increased approximately 36 percent between 2000 and 2021, with suicide claiming more than 48,000 lives in the United States during 2021. Suicide affects people of all ages and has far-reaching impacts on family, friends and the community.
In Dare County – where suicide is the eighth leading cause of death – the Breaking Through Task Force has been working diligently with community partners to spread awareness regarding this serious public health problem.
“Our hope is to further educate and empower members of the community when it comes to suicide prevention, and encourage them to join in our efforts toward prioritizing mental health,” said Kelly Fleming, Breaking Through Task Force Co-Chair and Dare County Health & Human Services Health Education and Outreach supervisor. “Together, we can truly make a difference.”
Last September, the Breaking Through Task Force joined with the Saving Lives Task Force, Be Resilient OBX and the Dare County Department of Health & Human Services in producing Shattering the Silence, a documentary about suicide in Dare County that shares the stories of six Dare County residents who have been impacted by suicide. The documentary aired during a special town hall event that included a panel of local mental health professionals.
In a continued effort to raise awareness this year, the Task Force has created a webpage on suicide information and education, and created a social media campaign tool kit that anyone in the community is welcome to use on their individual or business pages. We invite community members to join our efforts to break the stigma around suicide by downloading our 2023 Suicide Awareness & Prevention social media tool kit and sharing these important messages and graphics throughout the month of September.
The Breaking Through Task Force also joined efforts with the Dare County Department of Health & Human Services, the Saving Lives Task Force, SMART Recovery, and other dedicated community members, to host the first annual Out of the Shadows Suicide Awareness Walk. The event will take place on Oct. 14 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the First Flight High School track in Kill Devil Hills. Along with the walk, the event will include a keynote speaker, vendors, mental health professionals, suicide education and awareness materials, live music, and food.
For more information on the Out of the Shadows Suicide Awareness Walk, please click here. To learn more about suicide prevention in Dare County, please visit the new page developed by the Task Force. And if you or someone you know is experiencing mental health-related distress or is in crisis, please contact the 988 Suicide Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988, or via chat at 988lifeline.org.
The Breaking Though Task Force is a group of Dare County community members and professionals dedicated to breaking mental health stigma through education, awareness and connecting individuals to resources. The task force was formed in 2016 by Healthy Carolinians of the Outer Banks in response to a recent Community Health Needs Assessment indicating mental health as a top public health concern. For more information on the Breaking Through Task Force, please visit www.breakthestigmaobx.com.