Modified: September 4, 2018 3:09pm

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Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz was joined today by Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein and Commissioner of Mental Health Michael Ranney, Chief Executive Officer of Crisis Services Jessica Pirro, Celia Spacone of the Suicide Prevention Coalition, and concerned citizens in front of the Edward A. Rath county office building to spread a message of hope and proclaim “Suicide Prevention Week” in Erie County. Members of the women’s motorcycle club “Women on Wheels” kicked off the announcement as they arrived at the press event in a procession bearing a yellow “Flag of Hope”, which the group raised on the Rath building flagpole as symbol of hope against this public health crisis. Yellow is the color chosen to highlight the issue of suicide prevention.


“The effects of suicide ripple out far beyond the tragedy of an individual choosing to end their own life and make it all the more important to raise awareness and let people know that help is available, whatever issues they are facing,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “There is no shame in reaching out to another person, whether to ask for help or to offer assistance, and it’s these interactions that can prevent a tragic final decision from which there is no coming back. I thank our community partners for joining us in raising our voices of concern and compassion for people who may be struggling and I urge anyone who is having self-destructive thoughts to please reach out for help. We are here for you.”


Suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death among adults and 2nd-leading cause of death among people aged 10-14 years. In 2014, the highest suicide rate (19.3%) occurred among people aged 85 years or older, with the second-highest rate (19.2%) occurring among the 45-64 year old age group. In addition to the Flag of Hope flying at the Rath building throughout Suicide Prevention Week, Old Erie County Hall will be spotlighted in yellow each evening.


Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein added, “Suicide is a serious but preventable public health problem that can have lasting harmful effects on individuals, families, and communities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 7% of the U.S. population knows someone who died by suicide in the past year. Most people who engage in suicidal behavior never seek mental health services. While its causes are complex, suicide prevention can occur at all levels of society—from the individual, family, and community levels to the broader social environment. As a community, we need to promote suicide awareness, like are doing today, while also promoting prevention, resilience, and a commitment to social change.”


“Erie County has seen a 30% increase in death by suicide from 2013 to 2017. There are similar trends across the nation. Awareness of the issues surrounding suicide is critical. We as providers in the health and behavioral health system need to continue to work together to identify and assist those at risk of suicide to get proper mental health care. Education, screening and interventions can make a difference and save people’s lives,” said Erie County Mental Health Commissioner Michael Ranney. “We need to continue to work with the community, schools and employers to raise awareness surrounding suicide prevention.”


Younger groups have had consistently lower suicide rates than middle-aged and older adults; however, the prevalence of suicidal thoughts, planning, and attempts is significantly higher among young adults aged 18-29 years.  Youth identifying themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning are four times more likely than their straight peers to commit suicide.


“Crisis Services is Buffalo and Erie County’s only accredited organization for suicide prevention, intervention and postvention work. Our crisis first responders work to ensure anyone in crisis finds safety, help and hope,” said Crisis Services Chief Executive Officer Jessica Pirro. “We honor the start of Suicide Prevention Month today to ensure our community knows they are never alone. We are committed to be there 24 hours a day to help provide hope in a moment of despair. The message today of raising hope is to help save lives and show we are a community committed to ending suicide.”


Celia Spacone of the Erie County Suicide Prevention Coalition said, “The work of the Erie County Suicide Prevention Coalition supports the community in tackling the devastation of suicide. We build a suicide-safer community with education, training, support and stigma reduction. Together we believe we can help make suicide a never event.”




For more information:


On the Erie County Department of Mental Health, visit http://www2.erie.gov/mentalhealth/


On the Erie County Department of Health, visit http://www2.erie.gov/health/  


On Crisis Services, visit http://crisisservices.org/


On the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Erie County, visit http://suicidepreventionecny.org/  




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