At the age of only 31, Francis Scott Key High School graduate and Union Bridge resident Derek Sinnott tragically took his own life.
Derek was a diesel mechanic who enjoyed attending car shows, shooting pool at the local tavern and spending time with his grandparents. “Derek was a kind, caring soul. He was a good friend who was always there to listen and help,” said Linda Biddle, a friend from Union Bridge. Unfortunately, this past March, Derek ended his life, something scores of others are doing across the country.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, suicide took the lives of over 47,000 Americans in 2017. In Maryland alone, there were 630 suicides in 2017, according to the Maryland Department of Health. Since 2008, suicide has ranked as the 10th-leading cause of death for all ages in the United States. In 2017, suicide was the second-leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34, and the fourth-leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 35 and 54. Even more frightening, in 2017 we lost twice as many Americans from suicide than from homicide.
With the suicide rate in the U.S. higher last year than it’s been in at least 50 years, according to U.S. government records, there is no denying that there is an epidemic. What can be done to prevent suicide? Local health departments, community-based organizations, families, friends, doctors and health professionals are being encouraged to watch out for those at risk of suicide. The CDC identifies those at risk of suicide as individuals who often feel unconnected and alone, have problems with managing their jobs, health and relationships, and struggling to get by financially. Experts say that those who feel suicidal should seek psychotherapy, medication from a licensed professional, or call a suicide crisis hotline such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255).
What is being done at the local level regarding suicide prevention? Recently, the Carroll County Health Department’s Bureau of Prevention, Wellness and Recovery created the Suicide Prevention Coalition. This board of nearly two dozen individuals is taking the lead in the county’s efforts to combat suicide in our community.
The Carroll County Youth Service Bureau, or CCYSB, provides numerous suicide prevention services for Carroll residents of all ages. The CCYSB is a private, nonprofit organization that provides outpatient mental health services to its clients. The CCYSB works with Carroll County Public Schools to provide same-day assessments for any child displaying suicidal behavior or who has inflicted self-harm. From there the child may receive psychotherapy or psychiatric services. Most recently, the CCYSB began offering dialectical behavior therapy. “This provides clients with one-on-one therapy and teaches them skills that helps them with managing the problems in their lives,” said Lynn Davis, executive director of CCYSB.
This fall, the fourth annual Carroll County Out of the Darkness Walk will be held at Krimgold Park in Woodbine on Sept. 7 starting at 10 a.m. The walk serves as fundraiser for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, or AFSP. As the Carroll County Times reported last year, the walk raised more than $42,000 and more than 375 walkers participated. However, the walk is about more than raising money. The walk allows families to honor those who are no longer with us due to suicide and gives survivors some support. For more information, please contact Lori Barnard at email@example.com.
Suicide not only takes lives, but it forces surviving loved ones to attempt to understand why it happened. After Barb Cataneo lost her partner and best friend, Chris Farley, to suicide in 2016, she formed the Triple “S” — Suicide Loss Survivors and Overdose Support Group. Barb started the group to provide support to those who have lost a friend or family members to suicide or overdose. The group meets the first and third Saturday of each month at Wesley Freedom United Methodist Church in Eldersburg from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. To learn more, reach out to Barb at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Wednesday, it will have been three years since Barb lost her dear friend. In honor of him, she created the Chris Farley Memorial Award. The award, along with a $1,000 prize, is given each year to a senior basketball player at Liberty High School. The award recipient does not have to be the best athlete or the best student. Rather, the award is given to a player who has displayed tremendous perseverance and determination over his or her high school career. This past Thursday, as she presented the award during the senior awards ceremony at Liberty High, Barb took the opportunity to talk about her life partner that she lost and she shined some light on suicide. “The only way to help people is to be open and honest about it, and talk about the experience,” said Barb, commenting on the opportunity. “If I can help one person, I’m doing something good.”
Derek’s friends, family, and acquaintances have decided to not forget about him. The Union Bridge community has come together to put together the inaugural Derek Sinnott Suicide Prevention Day. The event starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 22, at Linbeau's Railway Pub. The event will feature a live band, a pool tournament, a cornhole tournament, 50/50 raffles and a silent auction — with all of the profits going to the AFSP in honor of Derek. Biddle said, “The outpouring of support from his family, friends, strangers and local businesses has been tremendous. This day will be a huge success thanks to the generosity of so many people. Derek will be in our hearts forever and we hope that with this day we can bring awareness and help to others who may be struggling.”
Suicide is a preventable evil that ends the lives of those we care about with little explanation or notice. As a society, we need to do everything in our power to be outspoken about suicide and stop it from taking more lives.