Flint, MI — September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and Flint residents can get involved in promoting awareness and prevention efforts through a host of upcoming events.

Carrie Chanter, the Director of Prevention, Health & Wellness for Genesee Health System (GHS), is part of the Genesee County Suicide Prevention Coalition, a taskforce launched in March 2023 with support from the county’s mental health millage.

She said while the county’s suicide rate declined slightly during the pandemic, now that people are going back to more regular activities outside of the home, she and other health officials are seeing a troubling uptick.

“Obviously, one suicide is too many,” she said. “But honestly, we’re starting to see now that we’re all ‘back to normal’ our [suicide] rates are going up again… Our rates are high. They continue to be high.”

According to data from the Michigan Department of Community Health, on average from 2017 to 2021, 62 Genesee County residents per year chose to take their own life – the highest reported number since 1980.

Chanter said she believes suicide data is likely underreported due to the stigma surrounding it. Further, she noted, the issue is one of national concern, as the number of people committing suicide grew for nearly every demographic category between 2021 and 2022, prompting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to note suicide as “one of the leading causes of death in the United States.”

But while the numbers surrounding suicides are not encouraging, Chanter said she hopes the county coalition’s work and the work of other suicide prevention and education organizations will be for local residents.

Since forming the coalition, GHS has hired a full-time manager of suicide prevention, formalized its 2023 strategic plan and launched a HOPE Squad initiative that brings peer-to-peer prevention efforts into area schools.

“We’ve got 10 school districts who are starting to implement Hope Squads this year,” Chanter said. “It’s exciting.”

The coalition is still building but currently has around 45 members, representing mental health professionals, hospitals, universities, concerned citizens, faith-based community leaders, K-12 schools, businesses and state and governmental leaders. 

Chanter said membership is open to all, however, whether-or-not a person has been affected by suicide.

“There’s lots of reasons for people’s ‘whys,’” Chanter said of the coalition’s membership. 

Some did lose a person to suicide, she explained, while others come to the monthly meetings because their job requires them to or they want to be “an advocate or an ally for this substantial public health problem.”

Aside from the county’s growing suicide prevention coalition, many organizations are hosting events throughout September to bring awareness to suicide prevention, education and dialogue.

Here’s a list of events happening through the end of the month:

  • Sept. 16: Armed Forces Resource Rally in Davison, Mich. from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Click here to register.
  • Sept. 28: Community Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) Training from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.  Click here to register.
  • Sept. 28: Genesee County Suicide Prevention Coalition Meeting from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.  Click here to register.
  • Sept. 28: National Alliance on Mental Illness of Genesee County’s Illuminate Community Event at the Greater Flint Arts Council from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Email Tarnesa Martin (tmartin1@hurleymc.com) for more information.
  • Sept. 30: Out of the Darkness Community Walk at University of Michigan Flint/Wilson Park. Check is at 9:30 a.m. and the walk is at 11:00 a.m. Click here to register.  

For more information on the Genesee County Suicide Prevention Coalition, or to get involved, email Evan Philburn, GHS Manager of Suicide Prevention at ephilburn@genhs.org.

If you or someone you know is considering harming themselves or having thoughts of suicide, help is available at the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

Kate is Flint Beat's associate editor. She joined the team as a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues....

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