safeTALK aims to prevent, recognize signs of suicide

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide has become a public health crisis for the state of Arkansas.

It's now the number one leading cause of death by injury, but one group of volunteers are working to make communities stronger. Members of the group said more than 500 people lose their life to suicide every year.

They said most cases could be avoided by just asking the question, are you okay? And if the answer is yes, don't be surprised.

Suicide prevention is a big concern for the state of Arkansas. Tyler West, Board of Directors for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention said, more people should learn how to recognize the signs of suicide.

“Just trust your gut, whenever you see dramatic changes in behavior of people that you love ask them, hey are you okay? Are you thinking about suicide?" West said.

The program is available statewide, and it’s called safe talk, it is a program geared towards everyone. The 3-hour training teaches prevention, intervention, and treatment to anyone age 15 and up. Not a day goes by that Mary Meacham doesn't think about her son, Kyle. 

"My husband and I lost our 24-year-old son due to suicide in 2010," Meacham said. “We just didn't know, and he always seemed to pull out of things successfully.”

An active student at the University of Central Arkansas, Meacham said they didn't realize there was a problem until it was too late.

"He had some difficulties with his emotions,” Meacham said. “I mean that as in very short tempered."

Now she finds peace, teaching others about the signs. The class is offered year round. The health department is planning to launch its first suicide hotline July first.

"Just be aware, look around and when someone is struggling, be there for them,” West said. “A lot of times all it takes is an open ear."

The number for suicide prevention is listed below.

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: 1.800.273.TALK

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