Suicide Walk Hits Home for Participating Contra Costa Health Officials
Monday, June 4, 2012
An overnight walk to raise awareness about suicide prevention holds special significance for two Contra Costa health leaders who have had loved ones take their own lives.
Contra Costa Health Services Director Dr. William Walker and CCHS' Contra Costa Regional Medical Center and Health Centers Chief Executive Officer Anna Roth will be among the thousands of people participating in American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's annual Out of the Darkness Overnight walk in San Francisco beginning Saturday, June 9, and carrying over to Sunday morning.
Suicide is a serious national health problem affecting all ages and demographics and is the 10th leading cause of death among people 10 years and older in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Close to 1 million people make a suicide attempt and more than 36,000 die by suicide nationally, according to CDC statistics. In Contra Costa County, about 120 people die by suicide annually.
Roth, who started participating in the 18-mile trek in 2009, lost her 26-year-old brother-in-law to suicide. She has been a long-time advocate for suicide prevention and stresses the need for mental health to be integrated into primary health care. She said the annual walk shines light on the issue.
"His death has had a profound effect on our family. Even after years of working in the mental health field, it's hard to grasp," said Roth, a registered nurse who started her career in mental health. "There is a deafening silence around suicide and the underlying mental illnesses. This journey is a step toward ending that silence and erasing the stigma surrounding suicide and its causes."
More than 90 percent of people who die by suicide have an underlying mental disorder such as depression, bipolar disorder or alcohol or substance abuse problems at the time of their death. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the best way to prevent suicide is through the early recognition and treatment of these underlying illnesses.
Dr. Walker will be making the walk for a first time in honor of his late stepson, who committed suicide in 2005.
"It was important for me to participate in this walk as part of my own family's healing and to help increase awareness," Dr. Walker said. "As a physician, I know depression can be treated and mental health is an important part of a person's overall health so integrating treatment for both the body and mind is critical in health care."
Roth says the experience is at the same time healing and empowering. Her Twitter handle @AnnaMRoth will be one of the official feeds documenting the event throughout the night.
To find out more about the walk or Roth's and Dr. Walker's team, Common Things, visit http://theovernight.donordrive.com and for more information about mental illness and suicide in Contra Costa County, visit www.cchealth.org/services/mental_health/ or for crisis counseling, contact the Contra Costa Crisis Center at http://www.crisis-center.org/ or call the 24 hour-line: 800-273-TALK / 800-SUICIDE or 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish speakers.
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