JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has proclaimed Feb. 27 Florida Suicide Prevention Day.
It's just one step in an attempt to reduce the number of people who are taking their own lives.
Florida has always been near the bottom when it comes to how much the state spends on mental health resources.
This year, Florida came in last out of 50 states.
In 2018, over 3,500 Floridians lost their lives to suicide, and there's particular concern for Northeast Florida.
Suicide rates across the First Coast are higher than the state average, particularly in St. Johns, Nassau and Flagler counties.
Dr. Christine Cauffield, CEO of Lutheran Services of Florid Health Systems, has been an advocate for mental health issues the past 30 years. She explained why some local counties have higher suicide rates than the state average.
“What that's attributed to is our senior population. We have the fastest growing cohort of males 75 to 85 who are completing suicide,” Cauffield said.
Cauffield said many senior citizens feel isolated, have lost loved ones, get depressed and have access to guns.
“Those combinations become deadly,” she said.
Here are some warning signs that someone is considering suicide:
- Extreme or unusual agitation or extreme calm behavior
- Excessive drinking or drug use
Cauffield said if you suspect someone is considering suicide, it's important to talk to them about it -- as uncomfortable as it may feel.
“The best thing you can do is acknowledge their pain,” she said. “Ask them how they're feeling. That you've noticed a change in their behavior. That you're concerned about them. You want them to get support. And how can you help.”
According to the experts, it's OK to ask sensitive questions like, "Do you ever feel like just giving up? Are you thinking about dying?"
Cauffield said questions like these are actually helpful.
"They are relieved that someone notices and they are open to hearing about help,” she said.
If you are in crisis, call Lutheran Services of Florida anytime at 1-877-229-9098 or visit LSFnet.org.