Saturday, January 19, 2019

The author with her son Eric, z”l.

This past January, I participated in a training program sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). The AFSP New Jersey Chapter, run by Elizabeth Roithmayr, sponsors community talks for children, adolescents, teens, college students, parents and the general public to help raise awareness of the growing epidemic of suicide, especially among our young people, and educate the community on the signs to watch for, in order to fight suicide.

AFSP has been there for me these past two years, since we lost our son Eric, z”l, to suicide at the age of 28.

I am now trained to present “Talk Saves Lives” and “More Than Sad”—two workshops geared to the community.

“Talk Saves Lives” is a presentation on the factors that might lead someone to be more at risk than others for suicide, and what some of the warning signs are. This workshop is for the general population and would be an ideal program for a synagogue sisterhood, men’s club or parent/teacher program. The audience can be as few as 15 or as many as 200.

“More Than Sad” is a presentation on suicide-prevention education for teachers and other school personnel, or for high school students themselves. This workshop comes with a participant program manual.

AFSP runs support groups all over the state for victims of suicide—which is what they call us, the families of those who have succumbed. Additionally, AFSP has community walks and an overnight walk, all to raise awareness as well—something my family has participated in, and shared with our friends and family.

Additionally, AFSP lobbies, both statewide and nationally, to help bring awareness of this problem to our political leaders, and advocates to develop legislation to help fight this growing epidemic. This past June, I spent my birthday lobbying our leaders in Washington, DC. Along with 300 other survivors of suicide—families and friends, as well as people who had themselves suffered from depression and other illnesses that might lead to suicidal ideation and suicide attempts—we marched in Washington to bring attention to this growing problem in our country.

Last month, AFSP published the latest statistics about suicide, based on the Centers for Disease Control data, for 2016 (the year our son died). The general suicide rate is up 1.8 percent nationally.

Here are some specifics:

  • Suicide is still the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.
  • Men die by suicide 3.57 more times than women.
  • White males account for seven out of 10 suicides.
  • Among people in middle age (45-54), the rate of suicide is slightly decreased.
  • In the second highest risk age category, those 85 years and older, there was also a small decrease in the suicide rate. All other age groups increased slightly.
  • More than half of suicide deaths were by firearms: 51 percent (up 1 percent from the year before).
  • For young people between the ages of 15 and 24, the suicide rate went from 5.3 suicide deaths per 100,000, to 5.4 suicide deaths per 100,000.

By Eta Krasna Levenson

 If you would like to hear more about the workshops, please feel free to contact me at [email protected]. These workshops are free to the public. Any costs incurred will be underwritten by the Eric Eliezer Levenson Foundation for Hope.