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Seek Help For Suicidal Thoughts, Especially In A Pandemic, Experts Urge

Laurie Elbow is the director of clinical services at Suncoast Center in Pinellas County
Laurie Elbow is the director of clinical services at Suncoast Center in Pinellas County

Research on the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic and the 2003 SARS outbreak in Hong Kong found a rise in suicides accompanied the health crises. The same could happen with the coronavirus pandemic.

Many people are isolated because of the coronavirus, and researchers have found that depression and suicidal thoughts are on the rise. Since September is National Suicide Prevention Month, experts want to get the word out that help is available.

One person dies by suicide every two hours in Florida on average, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for people ages 15-24, and second leading cause for people ages 25-34.

According to Laurie Elbow, director of clinical services at Suncoast Center in Pinellas County, if someone in your life seems down, take time to ask them how they feel.

“Ask the question, if they are feeling like they are suicidal or if they want to end their life," Elbow said.

"Those questions aren’t questions that prompt people to think about something. But if they are thinking about it, be present, be able to listen to the answer and reach out through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for some support.”

Elbow says something everyone can do, right now, is enter the national suicide hotline number - 1-800-273-8255 - into their phones so it’s handy if they, or someone they know, needs it.

"It's a real sign of strength for people to recognize and reach out for help," said Elbow.

"Now is a perfect time to do it. There are good resources in our community and people are on the other side, wanting to help," she said.

Elbow will be speaking more about how to help people who may be at risk during a Facebook Live event on suicide prevention Friday at 1 p.m.

Gina Jordan contributed reporting for this article.

I cover health and K-12 education – two topics that have overlapped a lot since the pandemic began.