We need to talk about suicide

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Rock vocalist Chris Cornell's death two weeks ago seems a long way from us in everyday Vermont.

But there's a connection worth exploring, discussing, and most importantly, action.

Cornell's apparent suicide in a hotel room in Detroit may have potentially been brought on by an overdose of anxiety medication. But it also reflects prevailing statistics about the face of a silent epidemic. And that face is largely middle-aged, white, and male.

According to 2015 figures reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 93 of the 121 Americans who took their own lives every day were men. By race and gender, the rate per 100,000 residents was highest among white males. By age, the rates were highest among persons aged 45-64.

Vermont is overwhelmingly white, increasingly middle-aged and still fighting an opiate addiction crisis.

The statistics from the CDC say in 2015, Vermont ranked 19th out of the 50 states and Washington D.C., with a suicide rate of 16.7 — greater than the national rate of 13.8 per 100,000.

That's too many lives lost. That's too many family members and loved ones left with questions that have no answers. Cornell may have been a rock star, but he was also a husband and the father of three children.

"Men notoriously don't seek help," Julie Cerel, president of the American Association of Suicidology and a professor at the University of Kentucky School of Social Work, told NBC News about the problem last week. "And as people are aging and at a place in their lives where the world isn't looking the way they want, men especially don't know how to reach out and get help or express that they're feeling pain."

But there's something you can do about that — for yourself or a loved one or friend.

The National Council for Behavioral Health's Mental Health First Aid training is offered regularly by United Counseling Service (UCS) in Bennington. It's an eight-hour course over two days, and just as CPR training can help a person with no medical training help save a heart attack victim, Mental Health First Aid training helps a person assist someone in a mental health crisis -- such as considering ending his or her own life.

Mental Health First Aid teaches you a five-step strategy that includes assessing risk, respectfully listening to and supporting the individual in crisis, and identifying appropriate professional help and other supports.

The next training session at UCS is scheduled for Monday, June 19 and Tuesday, June 20 from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. There is a $40 fee and seating is limited.

For more information or to reserve a spot contact Amie Niles at aniles@ucsvt.org or call 802-445-7443. If you are interested in scheduling a free training for your agency or organization you can get in touch with UCS.

If you need help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You are not alone.


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