Coalition works to prevent suicide in county

Last week marked the second annual Highland County Suicide Prevention Day on Thursday, Jan. 19.

The Highland County Board of Commissioners proclaimed the day during a meeting in January of 2022. At that meeting, Tara Campbell, committee chair of the Highland County Suicide Prevention Coalition, thanked the commissioners for the proclamation and encouraged all county residents to reach out for help if they have thoughts of suicide or self-harm.

“So, if you’re in Highland County, we have had an increase in suicide over the past few years and the goal of the coalition is to be able to prevent those suicides from children all the way up to the elders in the community so we just encourage the citizens of Highland County to look out for each other, reach out for help, and reach out to our local treatment facilities,” said Campbell.

About 1,600 people in Ohio die from suicide each year, and the Highland County Suicide Prevention Coalition works to fight the problem in Highland County. The coalition formed in 2020 and has about 36 current members.

According to the coalition’s mission statement, the group is “dedicated to building healthy and safe communities by helping others discover their reasons to live through promoting awareness, education, intervention and support services.”

Statistics from the Ohio Department of Health reveal that there were 34 deaths by suicide in Highland County between 2015 and 2019. Preliminary data that may increase shows eight Highland County suicides in 2020, seven in 2021, and four in 2022.

Meetings of the coalition are held at the Highland District Hospital cafe conference room in Hillsboro on the second Thursday of each month at 10 a.m., and the group is open to new members. The coalition partners with the Paint Valley Alcohol Drug Addiction & Mental Health (ADMH) Board, Highland District Hospital, Highland County Community Action Organization, the University of Cincinnati, and the Chillicothe Veterans Administration.

The coalition recently joined the Appalachian Ohio Suicide Prevention Alliance (AOSPA), along with 11 other counties in the southern and southcentral region of Ohio to expand their opportunity for collaboration to prevent suicide.

The group coordinates a number of community activities aimed at suicide prevention. This includes providing suicide awareness prevention and educational materials to all five school districts in the county.

The Harvesting Healthy Minds program that serves the farming community during the Highland County Fair is also part of the coalition’s efforts.

The coalition supports the Highland County Community Action Meals on Wheels program in targeting suicide prevention to older adults who are more isolated.

Free trainings in suicide prevention, known as QPR (Question. Persuade. Refer.), are also made available to anyone who is interested through the coalition.

Information about the group’s events and fundraisers can be found on Facebook at the Highland County Suicide Prevention Coalition page.

Coalition member Jennifer Lanzillotta said if you or someone you know is in crisis they can contact the National Crisis Hotline at 988, the Highland County Crisis Line at 937-393-9904, or the Crisis Text Line by texting 4HOPE to 741741.

Reach John Hackley at 937-402-2571.