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Increased awareness for county suicide rates

By SAMANTHA HURST / Staff Writer / Posted: Thursday, October 25, 2007 8:34 AM CDT

With the end of the year near, Shelby County Coroner Diana Hawkins is
afraid 2007’s suicide rate will surpass last year’s number. Twenty-two
people in Shelby County have already ended their own lives this year –
matching 2006’s total.

But there are those trying to bring that figure back down.

seems like there is just a lot of this going on," said Cindi Weeks,
whose 18-year-old son Matt committed suicide a little more than a year
ago. "Too many of these kids feel hopeless."

Matt graduated from Oak Mountain High School in 2006.

mother said he dealt with depression throughout high school but seemed
to be doing better when he decided to move to Auburn and attend
Southern Union Community College.

She said just two days into classes though, he told her he wanted to leave. The following Monday, Matt took his own life.

think since Matt was thinking about suicide he felt he could never be
normal again," Weeks said. "But there is help out there. We need to get
rid of the stigma that is attached to someone who has depression."

is the 11th leading cause of death in the U.S., the second leading
cause among Americans aged 25-34 and the third among 15-to 24-year-olds
according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Local volunteers
participated in an Out of the Darkness Walk held at Heardmont Park in
September, but their work to raise awareness has not halted since.

Matt Weeks team raised almost $45,000 for the American Foundation for
Suicide Prevention. Now those who participated are working to create a
local foundation chapter.

Even more people are simply lending an
ear. Howard Mullis is a North Shelby resident who has volunteered with
the Birmingham Crisis and Suicide Line for the past three and a half

"Only after I got involved did I really see the impact it
had," Mullis said. "Many times we help someone just make it through the

Mullis said listening is key.

"When somebody starts
talking about something you consider crazy, its important to take them
seriously," Mullis said. "Listen to them; don’t write them off."

Bartlett, assistant professor and coordinator of the community
counseling track at the University of Montevallo, said the hope is that
more people will be able to walk away from thoughts of suicide through
intervention. She said family and friends need to be aware of how to
help their loved ones.

"They aren’t attention seeking, they are
help seeking," Bartlett said. "Which makes it so important to know
where to refer them to get help."

If you or someone you know is
in need of help, the number for the Birmingham Crisis and Suicide Line
is 205-323-7777 or 1-800-273-TALK.


Copyright © 2007 Shelby County Reporter

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