BERLIN — October marked National Suicide Prevention Month and the Jesse Klump Memorial Scholarship Fund announced the launch of the Worcester County Youth Suicide Awareness and Prevention Program with the selection of a program manager.
Hope Hutira-Green will spearhead the fund’s efforts to teach the warning signs of youth at risk of becoming victims of suicide to everyone in the community who may be in a position to save a young life.
While calls to local crisis response centers have remained constant in recent years, the overall rate of suicide in Worcester County is still 30% higher than the state average. Between 2008 and 2009, suicides in Worcester and Wicomico counties increased by 60%. A 2008 Governor’s Report on youth suicide called the rate of youth suicide in Worcester County “higher than expected.”
“Hope comes to us with the best of all possible backgrounds,” Fund President Kim Klump said. “She has taught, manned crisis phone hotlines and served in a high school guidance office, but most important she is passionate about the mission – ending youth suicide.”
The fund has developed working partnerships with both the Worcester County Board of Education and the Worcester County Health Department. Working through the education system, a series of presentations explaining the risks and the signals young people who are suicidal often give out will be scheduled at every school in the county. With the fund, the Health Department co-sponsors monthly support group meetings for survivors of loved ones of any age who lost their lives to suicide.
“Eventually, I hope to be spreading the word not only at public schools, but also private schools, churches, fraternal organizations, scout groups, community forums, anywhere that people may gather who are concerned about the mental health and safety of Worcester County kids,” Green said. The program teaches recognition of warning signs like severe depression, changes in physical appearance, loss of interest in favorite activities and giving away treasured possessions. “We then teach people how to keep kids at risk safe until a trained counselor can step in, and provide information on counseling options,” Green said.
Klump facilitates the survivors’ meetings with a member of the Health Department’s Crisis Response Team, providing a place where survivors can share their experiences with other families who have suffered similar losses.
“Recovering from a death due to suicide is more difficult than grieving after a loss due to natural causes,” Klump said. “There is a profound sense of guilt that is complicated by the shame that surrounds suicide, shame that is the result of not understanding the causes that might lead one to see no other solution to problems than suicide. We now treat depression as a disease, not as a personal weakness, and suicide is intrinsically linked to depression.”
Financial support for the program has been provided by the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore and the Humphreys Foundation of Ocean City.
For more information on the prevention program, visit www.jessespaddle.org or call 443-982-2716. To learn about the support group, visit the same website or call the Health Department at 410-629-0164.