PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - According to officials with the Life Management Center, Bay and Washington counties rank among the highest in the state for suicide rates.
In Bay County alone there were 51 suicides in 2018. (WJHG/WECP)
September is National Suicide Prevention month and officials at the Life Management Center in Panama City say suicide rates in Bay County have gone up over the past few years.
Tricia Pearce, the community relations specialist at Life Management Center said, "We try to get out there and talk to people as much as we can to teach them about it and make them more aware. In Bay County alone we had 51 suicides in 2018."
While officials say they cannot confirm if suicides went up due to Hurricane Michael, they say locals are more at risk now than they were right after the storm.
Pearce added, "Now we're at the point of struggling and frustration because things aren't getting better as quickly as you would like them to."
Officials say there are a few warning signs to look out for in friends or loved ones.
"Watch for changes in their behavior, are you seeing if they're depressed a lot more? Are they withdrawing from friends and family? They may even start giving away their prized possessions if they're making plans to attempt," said Pearce.
While many have been affected by suicide in some way across the country, for others it hits closer to home.
Karen Abrahams, the Co-Founder of SPARE said, "I lost my son this month 12 years ago. After losing him, it hit me that suicide was a bigger problem in our area than I realized."
After her son Alex's death, Karen Abrahams co-founded SPARE or Suicide, Prevention, Awareness, Response, and Education, a group dedicated to breaking the stigma surrounding suicide.
Abrahams said, "There's numbers you can call. There's people you can talk to. I wish my son had known this."
For those dealing with a crisis, Life Management has a phone line always open.
"If someone is having a problem or they know someone who is having a problem, they can call our number at 850-522-4485. They can call that number 24/7, 365 days a year," Pearce said.
For a mother whose son's life was cut short, she wants others to know, no one is ever alone.
Abrahams said, "Suicide is not the answer. Tomorrow is another day, you wake up and there's always hope."
For more information on upcoming events to raise awareness on suicide and prevention click here.
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