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On World Suicide Prevention day, experts and survivors push for more people to get help

Crisis Center of Tampa Bay saw a 17 percent increase in suicide calls from the summer of 2019-2020. The center cites the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the problem.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — September is suicide prevention awareness month, and September 10 is world suicide prevention day.

For Mandi Clay the day is personal. She's a lawyer, a friend, and a wife, but she almost missed out on all of that. Clay attempted to take her own life when she was 18-years-old. 

She wound up in the hospital, and that was her turning point to receive help.

Credit: Mandi Clay

For those struggling today, the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay wants you to know you can get help immediately. 

"The hardest part about asking for help is making the ask. Is picking up the phone," said Clara Reynolds, the CEO and President of the Center. 

World suicide prevention day has become even more important as the stresses of COVID-19 and the effects of quarantine continue to weigh on us as a nation.

The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay has received many calls for help because of COVID-19. “We saw a ton of calls coming in around financial insecurity, concerned about layoffs, paying rent, putting food on the table, those kinds of things. And then we started looking at trends," Reynolds said.

And the trends pointed toward a problem. The Center compared numbers from last summer to this summer and found that calls for suicide concerns were up 17 percent.

“A lot of that is due to the issues around COVID. It is the isolation, it is the uncertainty, the fear of the unknown," Reynolds said. She stresses that if you're worried about a loved one or a friend, you do not have to wait for them to seek help.

“Please know that if you're concerned, trust your gut. If you don't feel comfortable asking your friend if your friend is suicidal, call 211," Reynolds said. "We can give you some talking points about how to have that discussion with your friend.”

Because when it comes to suicide prevention, it is better to be safe than sorry.

“You know, you're trusting your gut. And if that person goes, 'Oh my gosh, I would never do anything like that.' That's absolutely okay too," Reynolds explains. "You might have a quick little moment of embarrassment. But it's much better than losing somebody because you were afraid to ask the question.”

The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay has other tips if you see a loved one in need:

  • Never ignore a suicide threat.
  • If someone confides in you or if you recognize warning signs, confront the person in a gentle way.
  • Be calm and reassuring when talking to someone who has expressed a desire to die by suicide.
  • You can say something like:
    • “That must be difficult to handle”
    • “Do you have someone to help you cope?”
    • “Do you have someone to talk to about your difficulties?”
    • “Would you let me help you get help?”
    • “What would help you stay safe for now?”

If you need help, you can always call 2-1-1, a free, anonymous hotline that is available 24/7.

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