Suicide prevention awareness raised

Robin Williams' death is raising awareness about suicide prevention.

One person dies every 13 minutes from suicide in the United States. More than 39,000 Americans died in 2011 by committing suicide, that's more than murders, prostate cancer, and car crashes. In Hillsborough County last year, there were twice as many suicides (167) as homicides (72), according to the Florida Suicide Prevention Coalition.

Betsey Westuba doesn't want one more person to become a statistic or another family to grieve. Since losing her brother to suicide in 2007 and reading about Robin Williams' battle, she's learned that depression doesn't have to end with death.

See Also: Suicide a risk even for beloved characters like Robin Williams

Now she and the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay are working to help others struggling with suicide.

"Had I realized what he was going through, I would've really tried harder," says Westuba. The suicide prevention advocate tells 10 News that she now recognizes the suicide warning signs that she missed with her brother in 2007.

"He showed signs of talking about suicide. We actually talked about it many times, because of the depression in our family," Westuba says. "We can all get through our circumstances. We might need help, so it's okay to ask for that help," says Westuba.

The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay provides that support by answering the call for help from an average 250 suicidal callers in the Bay area every month.

"We're helping them de-escalate their emotions, or helping them find a safety plan, or helping them connect with positive actions they can do," says Manager of Suicide Prevention Services, Tom Mueller. "Most of those people get better and find ways to cope over the long run."

Mueller says people typically change their behavior a few weeks to a few hours before a suicide attempt. They often withdraw and stop doing activities they enjoy or may talk about ending their life.

What to look for: Suicide Warning Signs

Mueller says it's important to not ignore the warning signs, but talk about it. "We can say, 'I see you're struggling. I see you're hurting.' We don't have to say, 'We know that hurt, but we recognize it.' That says you care. Just that, tells someone hey someone cares enough to mention it to me," says Mueller.

Betsey Westuba wishes her brother would have realized that he wasn't alone. "Reach out to others. People love you. Don't be afraid to tell them what you're feeling, because then they can help you," Westuba says.

Westuba has started a support group called HALOS: Healing After a Loved Ones' Suicide. It meets the first and third Wednesday of the month from 7-8:30 pm. There's no fee, and it's a peer-led group.

Healing After Loss of Suicide (HALOS)

Group Life Center of Suncoast Kids Place
Campus of Van Dyke Church
17030 Lakeshore Rd.
Lutz, 33558

Please call 813-990-0216 with questions. Free childcare available with advance reservation.

In the coming days, The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay expects to receive more calls after Robin Williams death, because of increased awareness about these resources.

Call 211 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for the Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Suicide Loss Group
The Life Center
6811 North Central Avenue
Tampa, FL 33604

Contact: Sheryle R. Baker M.A., Executive Director

Meeting Day(s)/Meeting Time:
1st Wednesday each month 7:15 - 9PM &
3rd Sunday each month 4-6PM

Facilitated by: Professional & Peer

For other suicide prevention resources and support group:

There's a Tampa Bay candlelight vigil commemorating World Suicide Prevention Day on Wednesday, September 10, 2014 from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Carrollwood Cultural Center
4537 Lowell Road, Tampa 33618

This event is aimed at educating the Tampa Bay community to come together in support of the people amongst us who have suffered the loss of suicide, along with those who've ever been suicidal.

A presentation of coping technique activities includes:

  • Verbal presentations and help discovering healthy practices for promoting hope
  • Participation of national and local organizations with helpful resources
  • Hands-on art work focusing on hope
  • Refreshments and Networking
  • Reference materials
  • World Wide Candlelight Vigil at 8 p.m.

Free Registration:


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