Suicide rates are on the rise in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control. In the first 16 years of the new millennium, the rate rose by 30 percent across all age groups, and in 2016 it became the second leading cause of death for those aged 10-34 and fourth for those aged 35-54. In 2017, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death overall in the nation. In fact, there were more than twice as many suicides in the United States in 2017 than there were homicides.

Valerie Payton, children services coordinator for Greene County, is working to get the word out about suicide prevention, her office and other avenues for those struggling with mental illness.

In honor of National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day— which is May 6—Payton will be at Piedmont Virginia Community College in Stanardsville on Thursday, May 2 in an effort to increase public awareness about this growing problem.

“The Virginia Department of Behavioral Health Management sent a notice out mentioning the idea of a table event,” Payton said. “My agency is not really well-known around the state, so I’m hoping to get the word out while also offering suicide prevention information for children.”

Payton said she’ll also have some information about elder suicide.

“I will have information on some of the things that can contribute to suicide and some of the behaviors you may want to look out for,” she said. “Ninety percent of people who died from suicide had underlying mental illness and roughly 66 percent of males and 70 percent of females in juvenile detention right now have a mental disorder.”

Payton said some things to look for are, though there are more:

• Bed wetting

• Acting out

• Not saying anything

• Decrease in academics

• Becoming closed off

•Running away

“The ages of those committing suicide are very young—10 years old,” she said. “I think youth suicide is a much more serious problem than people understand. There is a lot of technology and communication out there, but when it comes to services, whether its mental health, behavioral or emotional, it’s kind of put on the back burner. People don’t know where to go or how to contact people.”

That is something Payton hopes to change with her event. She will have a table in the front lobby of PVCC from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Ruckersville Walmart donated some food items and water to share with those who stop by.

The Greene County’s Office of Children’s Services encompasses Greene County Public Schools, Greene County Department of Social Services, Region Ten, the Virginia Department of Health and the Greene County Sheriff’s Office. There are 135 offices of children services across the state with varying levels of staffing but in Greene Payton is the only one.

“I will be (at PVCC) to answer any questions anyone has. I’m definitely not the expert but I can help lead people in the right direction with suicide prevention,” Payton said.

For information about the office of children’s services, visit www.csa.virginia.gov. For information about the state’s behavioral health department, visit http://dbhds.virginia.gov. For information about children’s mental health awareness day, visit https://www.samhsa.gov.

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