News & Press

Jones County News: Work continues to reduce county’s suicide rate’s-suicide-rate

Jones County’s Suicide Coalition started working on ideas for suicide prevention month at their July meeting while looking at new student surveys containing very disturbing information.

The July 29 meeting was hosted by Dr. Marlo Vernon of Augusta University and held virtually via Webex. The meeting started with an update about public service announcements on local radio stations and the coalition’s Jones County coordinator, Joy Carr, said the announcements would be heard on WLZN, WDEN, WPEZ and WMGB.

Carr said the four stations should cover a lot of listeners.

Deidra Talbert-Johnson, also with Augusta University, said she has been posting in the Jones County Suicide Prevention Facebook page two to three times a week to keep the information fresh.

Vernon said she was excited about the numbers for people who were reached through the Facebook page. She said 10,681 were reached, and the page had 931 post engagements. She said 145 people liked the page over the last month, which was an increase of 300 percent.

Vernon said she was thinking about having community member spotlights to gain attention to the information on the page. She said that would include a photo and a brief post from the person.

Gina Hopf switched with Talbert-Johnson and shared Jones County’s student health survey. The survey is part of the Georgia Student Health Survey that is administered in public schools each year by the Georgia Department of Education.

The 2020 survey had a little good news with a decrease of the number of eighth-graders who have considered harming themselves from the previous year, but the numbers are still high.

Perhaps the most disturbing part of the survey is the 275 Jones County middle and high school students who reported having seriously considered attempting suicide at least once in the past year.

Seventy-seven of that number added that they had seriously considered attempting suicide on more than five occasions.

Hopf said the reasons given for the attempts were relationship issues with family and peers.

“They are so young to be carrying so much stress,” she said.

Carr said she had looked at the data for the past five years, and there is a lot that needs to be addressed. She asked if students experiencing mood swings and the at-risk student population is being considered.

The coordinator said the APEX program is in Jones County schools to give students access to mental health services. The program is funded by the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Disabilities and includes telemedicine psychiatry visits.

Coalition member Jordan Cohen with River Edge said their agency is the county liaison for the program. She said the program provides counseling in the school setting.

Vernon asked if the schools have mental health education programs. Cohen said there are not specific classes, but information is always available on an as-needed basis.

Carr said no one is informed when students go into crisis stabilization. She asked if there was available data about how many students have required the stabilization in the past 12 months.

“We hear they go short term, and then they are released. No one follows up, and that results in the child going through multiple crisis stabilizations,” she said.

Carr asked where the students are taken for the treatment, and the answer was wherever there was a bed.

Vernon stated that parents need to know what resources are available.

Carr said the numbers would be helpful.

“We need to look at the trends and progression,” she said.

Patty Gibbs with the Family Counseling Center asked if there was any information about if students were on medication at the time of the attempts.

Vernon said she did not recall a question about medication but she would take a deeper look at the data. She said she would try to have the information for the next meeting.

Suicide prevention month

Hopf said September is Suicide Prevention Month, and the week of Sept. 6-12 is Suicide Prevention Week. Sept 10 is Suicide Prevention Day.

The speaker had ideas for putting the focus on suicide prevention, including using sidewalk art and sharing it on social media, a virtual walk encouraging exercise, a Shine a Light campaign using glow sticks in the community, a Mayor’s Proclamation, a school art contest, and a film screening.

Vernon said all were good ideas, but they obviously could not do them all. She suggested picking a couple and said her favorite was the idea of glow sticks.

She said the glow sticks would not be difficult and it was agreed the proclamations could also be done.

Vernon said a free two-day virtual summit for suicide prevention, provided by the American Association of Suicidology, would be available to any coalition member Aug. 29-30. She said it will be recorded and can also be viewed later.

The next coalition meeting is scheduled in August.