Vicksburg mental health professionals comment on Suicide Prevention Hotline change

Published 3:48 pm Friday, July 22, 2022

Mental health remains a serious issue in society, and Warren County’s mental health professionals encourage those suffering to seek help before it’s too late.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline changed its number to 988 on July 16.  

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress. According to the official 988 Lifeline website, when people call, text or chat the three-digit phone number 988, they will be connected to trained counselors that are part of the existing Lifeline network. These trained counselors will listen, understand how their problems are affecting them, provide support and connect them to resources if necessary.

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However, this national organization is not the only one offering mental health services. Warren County residents also have several local options at their disposal.

“I would say 988 has its definite purpose as a (method of) suicide prevention, but we also answer our phone anytime, 24/7,” said Jeanine Hanks, Director of Outpatient Services at Warren-Yazoo Behavioral Health. “After 5 p.m., an answering service can get you in touch with a counselor. “

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide is the second-leading cause of death in children ages 10 to 14 and 25 to 34, the third-leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 15 and 24, and the fourth-leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 35 and 44. 

Hanks said that some key warning signs can include major personality changes, loss of interest in activities one once loved, extreme irritability and expressing vague statements like, “Life is too hard,” or “I don’t want to be here anymore.”

If one hears a loved one saying these phrases, or has those thoughts themselves, Hanks said it is time to check in with some questions. 

  1. How can I help you?
  2. Are you thinking about hurting yourself?
  3. Are you thinking about killing yourself?

“We always tell everybody to ask it a couple of different ways but be very specific and ask and to say it with confidence,” Hanks said.

And unfortunately, she said, suicide rates are trending younger and younger. Hanks said that school IT departments make referrals to her office due to students using their school’s network searching for ways to kill themselves. 

“We received several assessments for suicide because of what they were writing or searching for on their computers,” Hanks said. “So we’re not looking at just one symptom; we’re looking at a collection of symptoms. It has nothing to do with education level. They can be high achievers and do very well, but their anxiety level (can also be high).”

Hanks said she does not have a definite answer for why teen suicide rates are high, but she thinks it might be linked to social media. 

“Kids are constantly bombarded with what is ‘What you’re supposed to look like,’” Hanks said. “Bullying is so much easier with social media. You can’t get away from a bully now, because it follows your social media accounts wherever you go, so you can’t really change schools or that kind of thing because people can still get to you.”

Walter Frazier runs Grace Christian Counseling Center, located at 1414 Cherry St. in Vicksburg, and promotes seeking help before suicidal thoughts become overbearing.

“Seeking help can be confiding in a friend or coworker, talking to a professional or reaching out to your church pastor,” Frazier said.  

Frazier said sometimes in the South, religion is a coping mechanism for a large group of people. Frazier mentioned that sometimes people associate good faith with good mental health, but the two do not always coincide.

Most mental health issues have their fair share of myths and suicide is no different, he said, with one myth being that young people who talk about suicide never attempt or die by suicide. However, the fact is, talking about suicide can be a plea for help and it can be a late sign in the progression toward a suicide attempt.

Another myth Frazier mentioned is that talking about suicide or asking someone if they feel suicidal will encourage suicide attempts when in fact, talking about suicide provides the opportunity for communication.

If you or a loved one is contemplating suicide, please call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or reach out to a local mental health professional.