Suicide Prevention and Awareness in Sanford

“‘Open up … in a caring way’ The holidays might be difficult for some people you know. Reach out to them”

By Ellen W. Todd

Sanford News Writer

Thursday, December 19, 2013

SANFORD — The holiday season can be a stressful time for many people.

Most people can handle the demands of the season — shopping for gifts, decorating, holiday parties — and truly enjoy it.

But for some, the season can magnify feelings of isolation and loneliness. Images of happy families gathered around a Christmas tree or sitting at a table laden with holiday food and the constant barrage of cheerful holiday scenes can be painful for those who feel isolated and alone — whether they are or not. People who feel disconnected may withdraw and avoid social events, a response which will most likely make them feel more disconnected.

Nichole Ivey, the prevention coordinator with Strategies for a Stronger Sanford, urges people to be aware of the people around them — relatives, friends, and also neighbors and others they see regularly. It’s important to notice if someone seems “off,” Ivey said. And, if you’re concerned, it’s important to ask what may be difficult questions.

“Open up to the person in a caring way,” Ivey said in an interview on Monday. It’s important not to be critical, she said, and also to follow-up, even if the person denies having problems.

While it is important to be aware of signs of serious depression in the people around you, she emphasized the importance of self-care.

Experts advise a regimen of self-care during the holidays, which includes eating a healthy diet, maintaining a regular sleep pattern, and exercising, according to an article by Michael Kerr on

“As little as 30-minutes of cardiovascular exercise can provide an immediate mood boost similar to the effects of an antidepressant medication,” Kerr said.

“One of the best things a person can do, however, is to reach out to others despite how difficult it may seem,” the article notes.

“Mental health is a huge issue in the country,” Ivey said.

She pointed out that when someone has a life-threatening illness like cancer, we take an aggressive approach to treat it. Mental illness is still viewed as a “defect,” although mental illness can be just as debilitating and life-threatening.

Ivey noted that Maine’s annual suicide rate of 14 per 100,000 (roughly 160 people per year) is significantly higher than the overall suicide rate for the northeastern United States, which is 9.3 per 100,000 people. And, she pointed out, rural areas typically have higher rates of suicide.

There are good resources for those in the greater Sanford area struggling with mental health issues. Ivey said Counseling Services Inc., which has an office in Springvale, provides good support services that are available to anyone.

To inquire about CSI’s services or to make an appointment, call 324-1500 or 282-1500. CSI also has a crisis number — 282-6136 — or people can call 9-1-1 in an emergency situation.

If you or someone you know needs help, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Group’s suicide awareness message timely

Thursday, December 19, 2013 3:02 pm | Updated: 3:05 pm, Thu Dec 19, 2013.

By Faith Gillman

SANFORD – Suicide is not a topic many feel comfortable talking about. But for Nichole Ivey, the new prevention coordinator with Strategies for a Stronger Sanford, it is one that needs to be discussed – especially around the holidays, when stress levels can be elevated.

According to Strategies for a Stronger Sanford suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death for Maine residents, and on a national level suicide-related deaths outnumber those that result from motor vehicle crashes.

“It is an uncomfortable subject,” said Ivey. “Some see suicide as a choice; it is not understood. People who haven’t struggled with mental health issues or have never been to a dark place [in their life] might not be able to understand how it happens.”

Strategies for a Stronger Sanford sees suicide awareness and prevention as part of its larger goal to “engage the community in effective strategies to support their children, youth and families,” which includes strengthening the physical and emotional health of the greater Sanford community.

In addition to raising awareness about mental-health issues, Ivey will work with residents, parents, school staff, area churches, law enforcement and city officials to reduce risk factors for drug abuse in the community in her role as prevention coordinator. Ivey hopes to create connections and stronger community bonds for young people in the city.

“It does take a community to raise kids,” Ivey said. “We are taking a multi-faceted approach to developing an environment in which everyone can succeed.”

Strategies for a Stronger Sanford staffs the Sanford Strong Coalition, a group of residents, local organizations and businesses that oversee a number of programs in support of the community, including Drug Free Communities, an initiative promoting substance abuse prevention; Out-Of-School-Time Alliance, which develops opportunities for youth outside of school; and Our Schools Our Future, a program that fosters participation in shaping Sanford’s schools.

According to Strategies for a Stronger Sanford, “a community that fosters and appreciates strong connections among its citizens” can also work in the suicide prevention effort by “being aware of warning signs shown by those who may be struggling.”

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers a comprehensive list of warning signs that people who commit suicide often show before they take action, which include talking about wanting to kill themselves, or saying they wish they were dead; looking for a way to kill themselves, such as hoarding medicine or buying a gun; talking about a specific suicide plan; and feeling hopeless or having no reason to live. The foundation advises that the risks be taken seriously, as 50 to 75 percent of all people who attempt suicide tell someone about their intention.

Strategies for a Stronger Sanford recommends that anyone who is concerned for themselves or recognizes the warning signs in another should contact Counseling Services Inc. at (207) 324-1500 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, or call 911 in the event of an emergency.

The Sanford Strong Coalition also urges community members to make self-care and care for others a priority, which includes self-awareness and reducing stress levels, during the holiday season.

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