HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Suicide is a worldwide issue, but there are resources in the community where you live to get you or your loved ones the help you need to overcome difficult situations and emotions in your life. The goal is to prevent suicide and make sure no one feels alone.
"The death of a loved one is the most common trigger or stressor for suicide," said Dr. Aparna Vuppala, Child Psychiatrist and Medical Director of S.P.E.A.K.
She said when she heard about the victims of the Parkland shooting, and even parents of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, taking their own lives in apparent suicides, she was saddened but she wasn't surprised.
"When you think about the stats for suicide, in 2017 the suicide rate was the highest in the U.S. in 50 years," she said. "We had around more than 47,000 suicides in the U.S. and that is almost 129 suicides a day."
It isn't just mass violence that can be a trigger for someone to feel suicidal.
"The death of a child is a very difficult one. I don't think there's anything more difficult for parents to go through other than the death of a child. It's not like there's a period of time and then you get over it. The grief comes in waves. You remember the milestones your child didn't reach," she stated. "It's a loss of all they had with that person."
But Dr. Vuppala said there are many resources in the community to help you deal with grief and overcome any suicidal thoughts you may be struggling with.
"The best is to talk to your doctor. Make an appointment with a counselor," she added. "You need help with processing the grief, with getting treatment."
The S.P.E.A.K. Program
S.P.E.A.K. stands for "Suicide. Prevention. Empowerment. Awareness. Knowledge." The S.P.E.A.K. Program is funded by the Huntsville Hospital Foundation. It works to address suicide in the community and connect people young and old to resources of all kinds.
There is a mobile app that you can download to assist too.
From town hall meetings to classroom training to awareness efforts, the program helps people recognize there is help out there.
The first step, in many cases, is to talk to someone according to Dr. Vuppala.
"If you talk to someone who cares about you, they will also convince you to get the help you need," she stated. "If they're comfortable seeing a counselor, they can go see a counselor and they will give them coping strategies," she said.
"It's offering them hope that this will get better. Grief will be there but they will be able to manage their emotions much better," Dr. Vuppala added.
The Caring House
The Caring House of Hospice Family Care is another resource for those struggling with grief.
Located in Huntsville, they help people deal with grief with many services including support groups. The goal, leaders said, is to realize that grief is natural and everyone is capable of healing.
The Stepping Stones program, which started in January, meets from 5:30 PM-6:45 PM on the third Thursday of each month. It offers family support for those affected by a loved one's death by suicide, we're told. An RSVP is required. You can get more information at (256) 650-1212.
"When you have someone who has gone through the same thing, you feel like there is someone who understands how I feel. And you can share that. It's acknowledging those feelings," said Dr. Vuppala.
She said to overcome stigma about mental health and suicide, we need to keep talking about it. Talk to your loved ones, ask how they're feeling, and encourage them to get help.
Watch WHNT News 19's special report, SPEAK Up to Prevent suicide, by clicking this link.
You can also text Crisis Services of North Alabama at (256) 722-8219 to chat with a trained crisis counselor.
If you are in crisis or want help for you or a loved one, you can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1 (800) 273-8255. It offers free, 24/7 support and crisis resources.