Healing and hope

Most of us have been touched by the loss of someone by suicide. It is a heartbreaking experience for both families and friends of the deceased. For today’s post, I interviewed Dr. Celia Spacone, executive director of the Buffalo Psychiatric Center, about International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, which is scheduled for Saturday, November 18th. Events will be held all over the world, including in the Buffalo Psychiatric Center. 

Celia was recently awarded the New York State Suicide Prevention Center’s 2017 Excellence in Suicide Prevention Award.

Here are a few statistics from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:
  • 44,193 Americans die by suicide annually, translating into 121 suicides per day. It is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States.
  • For every death by suicide, there are 25 attempts.
  • In 2015, the age group with the highest suicide rate was adults between 45 and 64 years of age.
  • Suicides cost the United States $51 billion annually.

Dr. Celia Spacone

What is this event about?

is called the International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. 
On Saturday, it will be occurring. We’ve been hosting it
for ten years at the Buffalo Psychiatric Center,  and it is an international event. 
Last year, they had 350 locations worldwide. Our local event starts at noon at the Buffalo Psychiatric Center, in the Butler Rehabilitation
Building. There is ample free parking nearby, and it is open to the community,
free of charge. 

Registration starts at noon. We actually provide a light lunch
because it is a chance for people to be together. There will be resources and some
information available for people. The program begins at 1 p.m., with a candle
lighting remembrance, and then we show the documentary that the American Federation for Suicide Prevention provides us with, called
“The Journey: A Story of Healing and Hope.” The documentary is about people
who lost someone to suicide. It was made in 2014. 
Then they followed up with
them to see how they are progressing now. 

Then we have a panel discussion, with two
people who have lost family members to suicide and a grief and bereavement
counselor. The audience has a chance to ask questions. I usually moderate, but, this year, I am stepping back and asking someone else to moderate. That will be
Kimberly Karalus, and she is the outpatient unit chief at Buffalo Psychiatric Center.

How is this event received by those attending?
usually very well received. People tell us that they find it comforting and a
chance to see other people who have shared this experience, which can be a
very lonely experience. If you lose someone to cancer or heart disease, people
show up at your door with casseroles, and they provide a lot of support and
comfort. When people lose someone to suicide, there’s a bit of hesitance to talk
about it openly.  It is very hard for the family members to get the support
that they desperately need because of the stigma, which is getting better.
People are talking more about suicide. It is the tenth leading cause
of death in the United States.

According to the National Federation for Suicide Prevention, 70 percent of all suicides in 2015 were by white males. The NFSP also noted that the rate of suicides is highest for middle aged persons, especially among white men. Why would that be?
 About middle
aged men: there are lots of theories about it. Men in general die by suicide more because
they tend to use more lethal methods, particularly firearms. When firearms are
used, the lethality increases. The term that we use is completed suicide or death by

What would you tell people who are thinking about coming to the event on Saturday?
encourage them to come because it is a welcoming, supportive atmosphere. It’s
kind of a large auditorium. You can sit in the front and ask questions or sit in
the back and be by yourself. It’s a good chance to look around a room and see a
lot of people who look like regular people and who have the same thing that you
have. It emphasizes that you are not alone. This year, we are going to have
another element. We are going to have two therapy dogs present. They are very

For every death by suicide, how many attempts are there?
attempt to death in youth is about twenty-five to one; in the elderly, it is four to one. 

Why do more elderly die as the result of a suicide attempt?
The elderly may
be more fragile.

What are some of the causes for suicides among youths?
Suicide rates for teens had been declining for two decades, but they
rose from 2010 to 2015, and it coincides or correlates with rising social media
use. Cyber bullying is one. The other thing about social media is that everyone posts about
how perfect and wonderful their lives are. If you’re feeling bad or
depressed, you look at it and think that you are more of an outlier than you
really are. People post the good things that happen, so it gives them a skewed
vision of how everyone else is doing and they might feel that they are much more
out of line with what are people are doing.

Are there any gender differences in suicide and in attempts?
attempt suicide twice as often as males. They have more attempts, but men are
four times more likely to die because they are using more lethal methods.

What can people do to help prevent the potential suicide of a friend or family member?
need to have honest discussions with friends and family. They need to
understand that depression is treatable. They need to help to keep their
friend or family member safe until they can get help, but not have them feel bad
for confessing their feelings because you want them to be able to tell you.

Where can people go to get immediate help for themselves in a crisis situation?
The American Federation for Suicide Prevention has a 24-7 lifeline: 1.800.273.TALK
can text the word TALK to this number: 741741
services in Buffalo is available 24-7 to do outreach if needed: 716.834.2310. 
can even come out and do an on-site evaluation or provide linkages to help you
get help.

Is there anything more that you would like to say?
is treatable. It’s about finding hope and finding a way.

If you have lost a friend or family member to suicide, please consider coming to Saturday’s event at the Buffalo Psychiatric Center. You are not alone.

5 thoughts on “Healing and hope”

  1. This post is so full of hope, Alice. Suicide has that stigma attached to it which makes people look down upon the families of victims of suicide. And, depression its major trigger. I hope more and more people read this post as well as attend the seminar and also start opening up about their own feelings. There are many lives that can do with such help.

  2. The only issue I have with this is the implication that it's always preventable, somehow. And that's the last thing survivors of suicide loss really need to hear. If someone is truly determined to go through with it, they may not reach out and talk to anyone – they may not want to give someone a chance to prevent the act. But I do agree that we have to be willing to talk and break the stigma of mental illness and suicide.

  3. When one is confronted by a relative's or friend's suicide, the incessant questions remain. How did I miss this? What should I have done- or done better? Was it something to which I might have even contributed?

  4. My husband's family has been touched by suicide. And, even more sad, a former coworker's daughter's friend committed suicide due to bullying on social media several years ago. The girl was only 12. It's important to know there is hope, and support.

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