September marks National Suicide Prevention Month; Muscogee Co. coroner talks signs and resources

September marks National Suicide Prevention Month; Muscogee Co. coroner talks signs and resources

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - In a time where many people are staying isolated to protect themselves from coronavirus, it’s important to prioritize mental health.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. There are several warning signs and and steps to take if you’re struggling.

Mental illness doesn’t discriminate. Anyone you know or love could be experiencing suicidal thoughts. It could even be someone you think is fine.

“[I] had a shotgun, stuck it right up under my chin and was going to pull the trigger,” said Muscogee County Coroner Buddy Bryan. "Fortunately, I didn’t. I had a brother-in-law that talked me out of it.”

Roughly 40 years ago, Bryan struggled with suicidal thoughts. Now, it’s a mission of his to share the warning signs and resources with others.

“No matter how bad it might seem, it’s going to get better," he said. “Take two minutes, close your eyes, say a prayer, and stop right there. Don’t do it. All you’re doing is hurting the people who love you.”

With eight years of experience as the coroner, Bryan knows the signs and statistics. Death by suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in Georgia.

“Some of the main causes naturally are depression, alcoholism, dependence on pharmaceutical drugs and we’ve seen it all," Bryan said. “Is their behavior changing? Are they becoming more of a recluse, staying in their room or drinking more, depending on medication.”

Bryan said Columbus averages between 20 to 30 deaths by suicide each year. He said this year, the city has seen 21 suicide deaths so far. Bryan is noticing an uptick in active duty military and senior citizen suicides. He said there does not seem to be a noticeable increase during the coronavirus pandemic. If you notice these signs in yourself or someone else, reach out for help at 800-273-TALK.

“Just look for the signs. The prevention starts with us," Bryan said.

The FCC is in the process of creating a suicide hotline number that is easier for people to remember. A three-digit number is in the works. By the end of summer 2022, 988 is expected to be an active 24/7 number as a resource for the whole country.

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