Community discussion on suicide prevention talks signs, stigma

Carlisle/West Shore

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Suicide was the topic of discussion at a community discussion Thursday at the American Legion in Mechanicsburg, during what is recognized as National Suicide Prevention Week.

According to the American Foundation on Suicide Prevention, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in Pennsylvania, claiming more than 2,000 lives a year, recent data shows.

Rev. Donrico Colden, who was a panelist at the discussion, believes the issue needs to be more seriously addressed and looked at.

“Let’s act like this matters, like there’s a fire and everything’s burning down around us,” Colden said.

“We want people not to be afraid to talk about suicide, not to stigmatize if people need help or are in crisis, and to know that it is such a significant problem especially in our rural and suburban areas in Pennsylvania,” said Shira Goodman, executive director of CeaseFirePA.

Keeping people safe in times of crisis can often be a tall task. Goodman said one of the most important steps is identifying the signs.

“Whether that’s [the person] using more substances, becoming more violent, withdrawing from activities that they like,” she said.

Two-thirds of gun-related deaths in Pennsylvania are due to suicide according to CeaseFirePA, which hosted the event alongside March for Our Lives, Mechanicsburg.

The stigma surrounding mental health and asking for help often keeps individuals in the law enforcement community quiet, said Lt. Brian Curtis of the Mechanicsburg Police Department.

He said that culture of silence is still one of the largest barriers to overcome.

“We certainly see people in crisis every day. Sometimes it’s hard for us to admit that we’re in crisis ourselves … we’re afraid of losing our jobs, in all honesty, to access that help,” Curtis said.

Organizer Drew Cappawana, who heads up the March for Our Lives chapter, suggests implementing a mental health curriculum in schools instead of traditional programs that often only address an issue after the fact.

He believes the issue is one that spans all ages.

“It’s not just the young people who are getting killed every day. Bullets don’t discriminate whether it’s on age, whether it’s on political affiliation, where you live, it doesn’t discriminate,” Cappawana said.

According to the American Foundation on Suicide Prevention, firearms accounted for nearly 51% of all suicide deaths in 2017.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, you can visit or call 1-800-273-8255.

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