MCNOW Pam Marino

Opening up about the hardest things in the hardest times can make a difference for people who need help.

Good evening,

This is Pam Marino, reporting this week on a troubling story about an increase in calls to the local suicide crisis line, as well as attempts and deaths from suicide during Covid-19 here in Monterey County.

A story published in today’s paper details how in September, six months into shelter-in-place, suicide attempts increased at the Defense Language Institute and the rate of suicides in the county increased. Calls to the local 24-hour suicide crisis line were up 30 percent between March and July.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that people are willing to talk about it. That DLI Commandant Col. Gary Hausman was willing to sit down with a reporter on a busy morning and speak candidly about an increase in suicide attempts among DLI students speaks volumes.

DLI commandants have not always been so open with the local media about sensitive topics but Hausman was willing to open up. He demonstrated his leadership in normalizing talking about and getting help for suicidal thoughts, not only for DLI but for the entire local community.

Speaking openly about suicide and getting help is a key way to decrease the rate of suicides, according to two other experts I spoke to, Dana Edgull of Monterey County Behavioral Health and Carly Memoli who leads the Suicide Prevention Service for Family Services Agency.

Edgull and Memoli are both part of a recently launched joint initiative of agencies and community people. It’s called Monterey County Hopes, Helping One Another Prevent and Eliminate Suicides.

The combined effort is more good news, but there’s a challenging reality for nonprofits like FSA on the front lines of preventing suicides. 

While the pandemic has brought more volunteers with time and desire to serve as crisis line volunteers with FSA, it’s also cut into fundraising efforts during a stressful time that’s led to more people needing crucial support.

In addition to donations, more volunteers are still needed. Memoli says they have about 65 active volunteers but they need 100. The next training session will be offered in January. 

In the meantime, if you or anyone you know is in crisis or if you just need someone to talk things through, call the local toll-free 24-hour crisis line at 1-877-663-5433. The national number is 1-800-273-8255, or text 741741.

As Col. Hausman wrote to his students, faculty and staff in an email last week: “Every life is important and you are not alone.”

Be well and stay safe.

-Pam Marino, staff writer, pam@mcweekly.com

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