Flagler County has highest rate in Florida.
Donna Dolbier came close to ending her life at the age of 30. Separated from her husband, she was lonely and had feelings of failure.
“I didn’t understand that circumstances can change,” she said at a Suicide Awareness Seminar on March 23.
One day while visiting her husband and kids, she saw them laughing and playing, making her feel like they didn’t need her. This was a turning point for her. She went upstairs and swallowed an entire bottle of pills a physician had given her for depression.
She survived but her problems continued. Then, a couple of friends sat down with her and asked what was wrong. They were not counselors, but showing they cared help lift her out of the depression.
“I changed focus from inward to outward,” she said. “I found joy in giving and doing for others.”
She still works to keep a positive attitude, and she’s helped by a new religious conviction.
Dolbier told her story at the seminar at Palm Coast Bible Church, led by Tom Olney, pastor of congregational care. It was one of series of community workshops organized by the church.
Panel members were Mike Crisanto, regional suicide prevention specialist; Shoshanah Mercado, of Buddy Taylor Middle School; Karen Palpant, mental health counselor in Ormond-by-the-Sea; Chris Santoianni, Flagler County deputy; and Kathy Vazquez, victim advocate, Flagler County Sheriff’s Office.
GET OVER THE STIGMA
The panel members agreed that if you suspect someone is having a problem, you should ask how they are doing, and show concern.
People should get over the stigma that prevents talking about suicide. Also, some people say talking about suicide can cause it, but this is a myth.
“Don’t be afraid to ask,” Santoianni said.
There are several places to turn for help. (See box with this article.)
Mercado said she likes the www.psychologytoday.com site because it shows photos and bios of caregivers.
“You want to find a person you’re comfortable with,” she said.
Palpant said there can be multiple causes for suicide: disconnection from others; failure in relationships or career; mood problems; chronic pain; substance abuse; and then a final tipping point.
Behaviors that show a risk include talking about being a burden to others, sleep pattern changes, withdrawal or showing rage.
Something people can remember, Palpant said, is QPR. Question: asking if a person is OK; Persuade: let them know they can get better and help is available; and Refer: find the appropriate help source.
In 2017, Flagler County had the highest per capita rate of any county in Florida, at 28.8 per 100,000.
Mercado said she has seen an increasing need at Flagler County schools. She spends most of her day helping students who come to her in what she called a “crisis mode.” Family life often contributes to their problems, such as having parents who abuse drugs.
Social media plays a big role. Students constantly compare themselves to others on social media.
“They base their validity on how many likes they get on social media,” she said.
The problems are not because of one thing, she said, such as bullying or social media, but always a combination of things.
Santoianni said more mental health resources are needed in Flagler County. Also, there can be transportation issues for many people.
Olney said he hopes the seminar will be a catalyst for action.
“It’s important we work together,” he said.
Panels said people should continue to attend seminars, get involved and share resource information.