Area clergy learn about suicide risks, warning signs

The Vindicator


Cathy Grizinski of Help Hotline describes warning signs of suicide to area clergy, who were learning about who is at risk. Help Hotline telephone service receives about 15 suicide-related calls daily, serving Mahoning, Columbiana, Trumbull and Ashtabula counties.

Mahoning and Trumbull County Suicide Prevention Coalitions sponsored a program for clergy to heighten awareness about suicide symptoms and to highlight community resources. Cathy Grizinski, associate director of Help Hotline Crisis Center, offered an overview of suicide.

Warning signs: Suicide talk or plans, drastic changes in behavior, loss, depression, hopelessness, history of violence, substance abuse, giving away prized possessions and acute symptoms of mental illness.

Statistics: Older adults make up 12.5 percent of the population but account for 15.7 percent of suicides. Older white males are at highest risk; white males over age 85 are at greatest risk. There are some 30,000 suicides annually in the U.S.; it is the 11th leading cause of death while homicides is 15th. “The suicide rate in Mahoning and Trumbull counties is higher than the homicides,” she said. Only 2 percent to 4 percent of suicides are because of terminal illness.

Reasons why: Ambivalence between life and death, medication that may alter mood and thoughts, want pain to stop, and cumulative stressors such as burden, loss, shame and real or perceived losses. “Older adults don’t want to burden families or face constant physical or emotional issues,” Grizinski said.

Protective factors: Ability to cope with stress, religious beliefs, absence of psychosis, responsibilities to families or pets, positive relationships and social supports.

Where to get help: Call 211; Help Hotline at 330-747-2696 in Mahoning County; Help Hotline at 330-424-7767 in Columbiana County; Senior Line at 330-747-2697 or 330-424-7767; and National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255. Visit the website at

Area clergy learn about risks, warning signs



Members of the clergy often are thrust into the front line of suicide prevention.

To help them deal with potential suicides, area clergy learned who is at risk for suicide and warning signs that a person might be considering suicide during a special program Tuesday at the Help Hotline Community Center on Fifth Avenue.

About 56 clergy representing various denominations attended the session sponsored by Mahoning and Trumbull County Suicide Prevention Coalitions and funded by the Area Agency on Aging 11 Inc.

Duane Piccirilli, chief executive officer of Help Hotline Crisis Center Inc., said the aim of the program was “to give tools” to help clergy assess the risk that a person might be seriously contemplating suicide. He noted that the elderly is the group most likely to seek advice from clergy when they are depressed or lonely.

The elderly, youth up to 24 years old and middle-aged men are the most at-risk groups, he said.

Help Hotline telephone service receives about 15 suicide-related calls daily. Help Hotline is described as “the entry point for emergency-assistance services," which covers a host of programs. The hot line serves Mahoning, Columbiana, Trumbull and Ashtabula counties. It is funded by Mahoning County Mental Health Board, Area Agency on Aging 11, the Episcopal Diocese and United Way.

“The economy has a lot to do with it,” Piccirilli said of the suicide-related calls, which have increased since the economy has declined. He pointed out middle-aged men may have lost their jobs and aren’t used to asking for help.

Youths are affected by family financial conditions, he said, adding that bullying and cyber-bullying also are problems that can spark thoughts of suicide in youths.

The elderly, Piccirilli said, often face depression, grief, loneliness or the stress of having their adult children move back to the family home because of financial struggles.

“The clergy are on the front lines,” said Toni Notaro, administrative director of Mahoning County Mental Health Board. “We want to show the clergy the resources available if they see the signs and symptoms [of a potential suicide].”

Nancy Montagna, Recovery program coordinator at Help Hotline, said that a suicidal person often “has thoughts so powerful that they desire death because of emotional pain.”

Lisa Solley, chief of community relations/wellness and training of Area Agency on Aging 11, which covers Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana and Ashtabula counties, said the organization has a wide range of programs in which its employees and partnerships interact with older adults. The agency has a two-question screening about suicide, and if responses are “yes,” the agency worker will lead into a conversation that delves deeper into the issue. If the person’s plan is specific and immediate, the worker will contact emergency personnel.

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