Officials and community members in Osage County have come together in recent months to create a suicide prevention group to reduce the stigmas of talking about suicide and seeking help, including planned film screenings in Jefferson City.
Susan Long, a nurse and administrator at the Osage County Health Department, is the chairperson of the Osage Suicide Awareness Group Effort, or OSAGE.
OSAGE formed over the summer after the film “Suicide: The Ripple Effect” was shown in Jefferson City in June. Osage County community members who attended the film screening independent of one another stayed after the film to discuss it and kept communicating with one another, according to a news release from Long.
The community members raised enough money to purchase a copy of the film, with the rights to show it at no charge.
That group met in June and discussed joining with another group composed of representatives of elected Osage County officials — the coroner’s office, sheriff’s office and county commission — and representatives from the county health department and department of mental health, who had convened to discuss what could be done about a 300 percent increase in the number of the county’s suicides compared to previous years and numbers in surrounding counties of similar population sizes.
Osage County Coroner Lois Jaegers reported nine suicides between May 2017 and May 2018, Long said.
That news came just ahead of a report released in June from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found suicide rates across the United States had risen nearly 30 percent between 1999-2016. Suicide rates increased significantly in 44 states, and 25 states experienced increases of more than 30 percent.
The CDC’s data show Missouri saw an increase in suicide rates of 31-37 percent — which puts the state’s increase ahead of much more populous states such as California, Texas, Florida and New York.
Long said most of the nine people who died by suicide in Osage County in the one-year span were older men in their mid-50s or early 60s, although there were some women, too.
OSAGE formed when the two groups of concerned people in Osage County came together to organize a screening of the “Ripple Effect” film in August at State Technical College
OSAGE has continued to screen the film in Osage County “with the goal of encouraging people to talk about suicide openly and to reduce the stigma that can be associated with mental health issues,” according to the news release.
“There are a lot of people who have been affected by suicide in one way or another who just felt compelled to join,” Long said of the 56 members of OSAGE, including people who have attempted suicide themselves.
“Ripple Effect” follows a survivor and features prevention experts. Long said there will be a public screening at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 12 at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, with the exact location to be determined.
The group tries to have a counselor available at all screenings, she added.
Another public screening will be at 2 p.m. Nov. 17 at the Osage County Library.
In Cole County, there were 121 deaths by suicide from 2005-15, as well as 738 hospitalizations and 308 emergency room visits for self-inflicted injuries from 2004-14, according to the state’s Department of Health and Senior Services. From 2005-15, 9,648 people died by suicide in Missouri.
These are 12 warning signs of suicide the U.S. Centers for Disease Control advises people might express or exhibit: feeling like a burden; being isolated; increased anxiety; feeling trapped or in unbearable pain; increased substance use; looking for a way to access lethal means; increased anger or rage; extreme mood swings; expressing hopelessness; sleeping too little or too much; talking or posting about wanting to die; and making plans for suicide.
These are also five general steps to help someone at risk: ask, keep them safe, be there, help them connect and follow up.