Suicide awareness forum planned in Oak Harbor

A panel to educate the community about suicide prevention will take place next week in Oak Harbor.

A community panel meant to educate Whidbey residents about suicide prevention will take place next week in Oak Harbor.

The panel, hosted by Sons of the American Legion Squadron #129, aligns with the American Legion’s national “Be the One” campaign to reduce the stigma around mental health issues.

The event will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 26 at the Sons of the American Legion Squadron #129 building at 690 SE Barrington Drive.

Panelists will include state Rep. Dave Paul; LGBTQ+ ally, EMT and crisis counselor Pat McMahon; Island County Behavioral Health Manager Kathryn Clancy; and Island County Outreach Behavioral Health Counselor Betsy Griffith.

They will discuss mental health concerns among a variety of vulnerable populations, including veterans, youth, members of the LGBTQ community and individuals suffering from PTSD.

Statistics from John Hopkins state that an estimated one in four American adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. An estimated 17 to 22 American veterans die by suicide each day.

Post Commander Doug Light said the objective of the event is to help North Whidbey residents familiarize themselves with the resources that are available to veterans and other community members so they know how to best help their neighbors in need if a crisis arises.

“For a veteran, remembering can be a double-edged sword; healing on one side while the other side can release demons,” Light said. “Keeping the demons at bay is a daily battle, a battle that too many veterans are trying to fight alone.”

Former Post Commander Ron Lewis likened suicide prevention training to CPR — it is a tool that any informed community member can use in a crisis situation to help stabilize an individual in need until they get the needed professional assistance. The more community members who are trained to help out, the more likely struggling individuals are to get the necessary care.

“By fostering suicide awareness, we empower individuals to ‘be the one’ who can recognize signs, extend a helping hand and connect individuals with vital resources,” Lewis said. “It’s a collective responsibility to ensure that no one feels alone in their struggles.”

This forum is free and open to the public.

Individuals experiencing thoughts of suicide can call the 24-hour national suicide prevention lifeline at 988.