By Cat Webb, Staff Writer-

In 2018, in the ten counties around Chattanooga, the suicide rate was 1.5 times higher than the national average. 

Suicide has a massive impact on not only Chattanooga but on Tennessee as a whole. According to information provided at the forum, 1,159 people died to suicide in Tennessee in 2018. Of those, 118 of them occurred in ten counties surrounding Chattanooga.

The Preparation, Assessment, Response Foundation intends to figure out just why the rate of suicide in the area is so high.

PAR attempts to educate and train people on how to respond to suicide, assess how best to respond to the needs of those in distress, and respond in the best possible way.

To try and gather reasons why that the area’s suicide rate is so high, PAR intends to hold a forum in each of the ten counties around Chattanooga. These forums give them a wealth of raw information they can work with.

Chattanooga’s forum, described online as a “listening session,” drew in a small group. Attendees filled out forms asking about their experience with suicide. The form included questions such as whether they’d had suicidal thoughts, whether they’d attempted, and whether they’d lost anyone to suicide.

 There was no long presentation or speech, just a forum driven by its attendees and their experiences. They gathered into groups and ‘listeners’ facilitated conversation about various different topics relating to suicide. The intention was to allow community members to take charge and speak openly about their views on suicide.

One of the listeners, Kim Daniel, is a student working to achieve a master’s degree in counseling. It is a tough and often uncomfortable topic to address, but her belief is that talking about suicide is necessary. 

She said, “Having the conversation is one of the most important parts.”

The conversations at the forum were guided by prompts and the listeners played the important role of listening to the thoughts and concerns of those that were present. The prompts fostered discussions on resources that could be made available and how they could be distributed, the possible causes of suicidal thoughts and actions, and how suicide can impact people.

The listeners recorded participants’ answers, which will be compiled into a document along with the information garnered from each of the forums.

The forum also offered resources to help with suicidal thoughts and actions. There was a table provided by the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, with various pamphlets and printouts detailing resources available to those in Tennessee that are struggling. One of TSPN’s members was also present and participated in the conversation.

Anyone who is struggling with mental health issues or suicide can find help in UTC’s Counseling Center, which offers services free to all students or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). 

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