HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. State officials and advocates gathered at the Capitol Tuesday to talk about the issue and how everyone can get involved.
For one woman, losing people to suicide pushed her to change her career to try and prevent her experience from happening to someone else.
Fourteen years ago, Amanda Blue says she had an ordinary family of four.
“My husband and I were married for 17 years, we had two children,” she said.
She described her husband as upbeat and outgoing.
“My mother used to say the ‘never met a stranger’ type,” Blue said.
He had recently gone through open heart surgery, which can lead to depression, but Blue said he seemed to be recovering — or so she thought.
“Everything seemed fairly normal and okay and on March 26 of 2008, he took his own life,” she said.
Blue said she tried to help her family process the loss, sending both her children to therapy and seeing a therapist herself. However, a few years later, she saw her 14-year-old son struggling.
“He played the guitar, he was engaged in robotics,” Blue said of her son. When she noticed the change, she “did take him to a therapist, I did what I thought I was able to do.”
But three years after losing her husband to suicide, Blue lost her son the same way — two weeks before he turned 15.
For Blue, it changed everything.
“I needed to have a purpose,” she said.
She left her career in graphic design and went back to school to get her masters in public health.
“I was training to teach suicide prevention classes,” she said.
Now, she works to prevent suicide full time.
“Inspire people to understand suicide and talk about it, and not maintain the stigma,” Blue said.
On Tuesday, she shared her story, joining state officials recognizing Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.
“Letting it stay in secret really gives suicidal ideation more room to grow,” Deputy Secretary of Human Services Kristen Houser said.
Blue said there is less stigma around suicide now, compared to when her husband and son died.
“There were people who said to me immediately after my husband died, ‘You told your children how your husband died?'” she said.
However, she still thinks people do not talk about it enough.
“When you see [someone] start behaving differently, don’t be afraid to say something,” she said.
“Do things for other people that we wish people would do for us when we’re having a difficult time,” Houser said.
Blue said her experience is proof suicide can impact anyone. She hopes things like Suicide Prevention Awareness Month keep the conversation going.
A fairly new resource to help people in crises is the 988 hotline, which rolled out in mid-July. People can dial 988 to quickly be connected to resources. In August, Lifeline Crisis Centers in Pennsylvania received 6,484 calls. Eighty-six percent were answered in-state and the average call time was 11 minutes.