ROYAL OAK — Sparked by a discussion of suicides at a local shooting range, the larger issue of mental health and suicide awareness showed through at last week’s City Commission meeting.
Several speakers during public comment came forth to make sure residents were aware of the suicide-prevention services currently available, and one speaker even told of his own attempt to take his life six months prior.
“Greater public awareness is the key to preventing suicide,” said Commissioner Peggy Goodwin, who initially introduced the agenda item at the Feb. 4 meeting as focused on the incidents at Target Sports. “My intention in talking about this was suicide prevention, first and foremost.”
Goodwin said suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. Although she said 50 percent are done with guns, other means and how to prevent them were discussed.
Farmington Hills City Councilman Ken Massey has been working to stop suicide in his city for years after 13 youths talked of or attempted killing themselves in a single month in May 2010. His 27-year-old stepson committed suicude in May 2011.
“People suffer in silence,” Massey said.
He noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said suicide is the third-leading cause of death for 10- to 24-year-olds and the second-leading cause for 25- to 34-year-olds. The Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office had reported in 2011 that suicides in Oakland County were up 21 percent since 2008.
Massey offered to assist the City Commission in creating a committee to raise awareness and create a prevention program, as well as to create a 24/7 hotline.
Many commissioners were interested in creating such an entity, but Mayor Jim Ellison noted that the city’s Save Our Youth Task Force and local nonprofit Common Ground are both currently covering much of the same ground.
Resident Scott Remington urged the commission to do something long-term and substantial, if they were serious about suicide prevention and awareness. He said a friend of his had committed suicide a week prior, leaving behind a 2-year-old child.
“This country is built on quick fixes,” Remington warned.
At the end of the discussion, the commission voted unanimously for city staff to work with the SOY Task Force to create an educational program for suicide prevention and report back to the commission in 30 days.
Common Ground President and CEO Tony Rothschild urged those in need to call Common Ground’s 24-hour crisis hotline, available at both (248) 456-0909 and (800) 231-1127. For more information, visit www.commongroundhelps.org.
To view the entire commission discussion and public comment, visit www.ci.royal-oak.mi.us.