SaveCenla founders (from left) Angela Dixon, Andy Dixon, Anthony Bordelon and Jackie Bordelon review information in preparation for this Saturday's "Walk Into The Light" 5K event to raise awareness and support suicide prevention services in this area. SaveCenla will also co-sponsor a two-day suicide intervention training course at Hampton Inn in Marksville on Oct. 17-18. {Photo by Raymond L. Daye}

SaveCenla to hold 'Walk Into the Light' in downtown Marksville Saturday

Event raises suicide prevention awareness; training course Oct. 17-18

For the past three years, there have been several efforts to raise public awareness of the crucial social problem of suicide. There has also been attention focused on contributing causes to this parish’s high suicide rate, such as mental illness, drug abuse and bullying in schools.

The result has been more people seeking help and a drop in the suicide rate compared to past years at this time, Coroner Dr. L.J. Mayeux said. However, the parish’s per capita suicide rate is still in double digits and the holiday season is approaching, he added.

SaveCenla, a non-profit dedicated to promoting mental health awareness and suicide prevention, will conduct its “Walk Into the Light” this Saturday in downtown Marksville.

“There will be mental health resources along with very powerful speakers,” SaveCenla co-founder Andy Dixon said.

Registration is free, but businesses are encouraged to sponsor a team to raise money for the organization’s efforts in Avoyelles Parish. Advance registration is recommended, but day-of-event registration will be allowed.

Registration and check-in for pre-registered individuals and teams will be at 8 a.m. in the Marksville Fire Department Annex. Opening ceremonies and special speakers will begin at about 9 a.m. with the 5K Walk Into The Light stepping off at 10 a.m.

Following the walk, there will be a balloon launch for participants to honor loved ones who were lost to suicide.

The event will also feature some “fun” items as well, including a bouncy house for children, face painting and door prizes.

There will also be vendors set up around Courthouse Square.

Dixon said 100 percent of the money raised “will stay in Central Louisiana to promote mental health awareness and suicide prevention.”

SUICIDE STATISTICS

Avoyelles’ per capita (incidents per 100,000 population) suicide rate has been around 25-30 for the past three years -- about 10-12 confirmed suicides per year.

A National Center for Health Statistics’ 15-year survey found the U.S. suicide rate was 13.0, the state’s was 15.5 and Avoyelles’ was 17.62. Southern neighbor Evangeline Parish was higher at 20.89 while northern neighbor Rapides was below the state and national average at 11.27.

The NCHS measures rates in multi-year reports to offset possible skewing of the numbers when comparing rates in low-population communities to larger ones.

Figures on suicide rates may not tell the whole story of a community’s suicide problem.

It is widely suspected that many “accidental” drug overdose deaths, in which there is no clear evidence of suicidal intent, are not accidental at all.

“Our suicide rate per 100,000 population is down to about 12 right now,” Mayeux said. “I believe a lot of that is due to increased awareness in the parish. The mental health providers are seeing an increase in people coming in seeking help and advice. In the past, those people may have just acted on their suicidal thoughts.”

Mayeux said there are more suicide prevention programs in place and more widespread knowledge in the community of those available resources to combat suicide and mental illness.

“People are realizing that it is okay to seek help when they have those thoughts and feelings,” Mayeux said. “They don’t have to go through it alone.”

Although pleased with the apparent decrease in suicides, the coroner noted that historically “there has been a spike in the number of suicides around the holidays in this parish.”

People should be aware that feelings of depression over the loss of loved ones may be stronger during holidays and that there are resources available to help them cope with those feelings.

While high crime rates are a major concern in every community, there is not the same level of public concern about suicide and its causes.

Dixon pointed out that a national crime database found Avoyelles’ homicide rate was 5.61 per 100,000 population in a recent year while Rapides’ was 10.06.

“You are more likely to die by suicide than by murder in Avoyelles and Rapides,” Dixon said.

Nationwide, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death, but it is the second leading cause of death for Americans in the 15-24 age category, according to a report by the American Association of Suicidology.

TRAINING WORKSHOP

In a related matter, SaveCenla will conduct a two-day Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) workshop Oct. 16-17 at the Hampton Inn in Marksville.

The workshop is being co-sponsored by the state Department of Veterans Affairs and the Louisiana National Guard Suicide Prevention Team.

Participants “will learn valuable skills to help recognize when a person may be at risk of suicide and how to talk, listen and keep them safe for now,” Dixon said. “As heart-breaking as this is to admit, if I had attended an ASIST workshop before losing my son Adam to suicide, he would still be alive today.”

Registration fee is $55 per person to cover cost of materials. The workshop is limited to 24 participants, so interested parties are encouraged to register by this Friday to ensure a seat in the class.

Dixon said day-of-class registration will be possible if there are open seats.

For more information or to register for either the 5K walk or ASIST workshop, call Dixon at (337) 288-0973, Angela Dixon at (337) 519-1888, Jackie Bordelon at (318) 419-0620 or Anthony Bordelon at 359-9681.

AVOYELLES JOURNAL
BUNKIE RECORD
MARKSVILLE WEEKLY

105 N Main St
Marksville, LA 71351
(318) 253-9247