According to the Centers for Disease Control, in the United States during 2013, the last year data is available, 41,149 lives were lost to suicide.
That number represents 113 deaths per day or one death every 13 minutes. While that number is staggering, perhaps even more troubling is 9.3 million individuals in the United States have admitted to having suicidal thoughts in the past year.
Pettis County has seen an increase in the number of suicides over the last year.
In an effort to be proactive and work to raise awareness to help prevent the loss of life, an organization has been founded to help individuals, school districts and community and civic groups have an understanding of methods to help those in need.
Amanda Eisenbarth and Amanda Brown, two friends who became concerned with the increase in suicide, especially in the county, established the Memory Lane Foundation for Suicide Prevention in June.
“We both know families who have been affected by suicide,” Eisenbarth said. “We started to talk one day about a family in our community who lost a member to suicide and felt we should do something to try to help them.
“We always have a get together around the Fourth of July, and so we thought maybe we should see if we could get enough people together to do a county memorial walk,” Eisenbarth added. “Maybe something small like four miles with friends.”
As the women spoke to other friends and family, the idea, and the event itself, began to grow.
“I got in touch with Dr. Gary Kitto, because I felt we needed to have a psychiatrist at whatever we decided to do to be on hand to answer questions,” Eisenbarth added. “He put us in contact with other individuals and the response from the community has been overwhelming and everything has seemed to fall into place.”
The women organized the Memory Lane-It’s Not Always Easy Street 5K Run/Walk Sept. 12 on the Katy Trail. With the support of participants and sponsors, the event raised more than $10,000.
“We wanted to take one day to impact and help a family,” Brown said. “We never dreamed we would be able to help an entire community.”
One use for the funds will be to help individuals who are undergoing counseling and are unable to afford their co-payments at Burrell Behavioral Health and Pathways Community Health. The service will be for Pettis County residents who qualify under an established screening process.
“Our plan right now is to help provide two sessions a month for teens, one a month for parents and other adults and a monthly for family members who have lost a loved one to suicide,” Eisenbarth said.
The group also has plans to develop school programs to help students become more aware of signs that they or another may need help for their thoughts and feelings.
“We have contacted Smithton about starting the program there,” Eisenbarth said. “We wanted to start at a smaller district and grow the program from there.”
In its initial stage, the plan is to have staff training and then implement the program in grades seven through 12 in the health classes.
“We are developing a series of 20- to 30-minute presentations to be used in the schools or for other group presentations,” Eisenbarth added. “We are working with the school counselors and administration to finalize the details; so far the response has been positive.”
The organization is planning other events including monthly support meetings and plan to host a Yoga Night on Dec. 5 with instructor Nicci Funk.
“There are some incredible resources out there to help individuals,” Brown said. “If individuals are interested in learning more they may contact us on our Facebook page for links to other sites and resources.”
The Memory Lane Foundation’s email is [email protected]
“Amanda and I both feel that if we can help to save one person’s life, than we truly have done something,” Brown said.