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Suicide ‘huge public health issue in Erie County’

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WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley
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The Suicide Prevention Coalition of Erie County is working to end the stigma that surrounds suicide. WBFO'S Eileen Buckley says members of the community gathered in downtown Buffalo yesterday to learn about prevention.

"It certainly is scary in just that every 40-seconds someone is attempting suicide in our country," said Olivia Retallack   coordinator of the Coalition.  

There is a rise in the number of suicides among middle-age men.  Retallack tells WBFO News experts are trying to figure out why. 

"We're finding this age group is reaching out to their primary care physician -- sometimes three or four times," said Retallack.

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Credit WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley
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Suicide Prevention Coalition of Erie County.

Every 41-second there are family members left behind to make sense of a suicide.  Rene Carapella-Johnson is one of them.  She lives outside of Corning, New York.  Pella-Johnson lost her 19-year-old brother Raymond to suicide in  2005. She shares her story to educate citizens on the possible signs.

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Credit WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley
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Suicide prevention information.

"The biggest warning signs that we didn't realize at the time were warning signs was Raymond was talking a lot dying. He would make comments like 'you guys will just be better off without me, soon the pain will be over' -- I look back now and I just you know I wish we would have said Raymond what do you mean by those things instead of just brushing them off," said Carapella-Johnson.

Carapella-Johnson now works with researchers at the University of Rochester to understand needs and experiences of the survivors of suicide.

Erie County Health Dr. Gale Burstein warns that suicide is a "huge public health issue".

"This really touches everybody in Erie County," said Burstein.  "We have to stop making suicide a stigmatized issue."

The health commissioner says it's time to figure out how to prevent suicides. Among those who attended yesterday's seminar were human service providers, members of the clergy, probation and educators.