Panama City - This week is National Suicide Prevention Week. The Life Management Center of Northwest Florida is using the opportunity to educate mental health professionals and the public about the issue.
The center hosted a suicide prevention conference Thursday in Panama City.
"My name is Karen Abrahams. I have a 17 year old son named Alex who committed suicide on September 13 of 2007,” Abrahams said.
Almost three years to the day, Karen shared her story publicly for the first time.
"It took me well over a year before I even started remembering what the day of the week it was,” Abrahams said.
Thursday, Karen sat alongside approximately 75 others in the Panama City Holiday Inn Select, for the inaugural suicide prevention conference hosted by the life management center of Northwest Florida.
The organization’s workers can attest to the recent rise in suicide numbers.
"More calls to our 24-hour crisis line, more individuals indicating that the stress of the economy, the stress of the oil spill, just the stress across the nation, is making them a little bit more depressed and certainly people are thinking more about taking their own life,” said Ned Ailes, CEO of Northwest Florida’s Life Management Center.
In a typical week there are more than 19,000 suicide attempts nationally. This breaks down to approximately two people attempting suicide in the country every minute.
"Those time periods are shortening with the economics of today and trials and tribulations people are faced with,” said Debbie Coleman of The Jason Foundation.
Locally the numbers are even larger.
According to the medical examiner's office, in 2007, the year Karen’s son died, there were 52 suicides in the 14th judicial circuit.
That number has gone up every year since, leaving Florida with 2,000 suicides per year, the second highest number in the country.
Nationwide, Florida ranks 17th in the country.
"The important thing for people to recognize in our community is that this is a preventable death. When people talk about it, they should be taken seriously, regardless of their age,” said Ailes.
That point hit home for Margie Armstrong, a suicide survivor of 35 years.
"At the point that I decided to commit suicide I heard my children cry and I just thought I can't do this to them. And so that was the thing that was the saving piece for me in particular,” Armstrong recalled.
"You wake up every morning and say I’m here, no he's not here, but we're going to continue on,” Abrahams said.
If you know anyone that has talked about, or suggested they may take their own life, take them seriously and encourage them to seek help.
The local 24-hour crisis and counseling line is 850-522-4485.
The next suicide prevention meeting will be held Thursday, September 23, at 9:00am at the Life Management Center of Northwest Florida.