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Sarah’s Column: National Suicide Prevention Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day: 1-800-273-8255


Sarah Stephens

I received a call today, much like a call I receive all too often from law enforcement officers throughout Autauga and Elmore County. It was a preemptive phone call, concerning a large police presence in our coverage area.

“Sarah, just letting you know you are going to get a lot of calls because we have several officers at a location. Just letting you know it appears at this time to be a suicide. No foul play is suspected.”

Let’s face it…when any of us are driving through town and see a large police presence, our first thought isn’t that someone killed themselves. We assume that a crime has been committed, and perhaps there are victims, or more danger ahead. I get a lot of emails, texts and messages from people asking why law enforcement is in their neighborhoods, or at businesses. Whenever possible I try to track down the agency in the area and check on what is happening.

But we don’t normally come back and tell you a story about suicide.

When I graduated from college after studying journalism in 1990, the general rule of thought on reporting suicides was simple. We don’t. Particularly if it took place on private property.

There have been exceptions over the years, of course. If it is a public figure, or if it occurred on public property. I have covered several suicides where people killed themselves in a public park. One teenager hung himself from a tree in a park. Another man shot himself, twice, in a park.

But it always bothers me regardless. I just feel like when a person chooses to end their own life, for whatever reason, those left behind are suffering enough. I am not comfortable fanning those flames and bringing yet more grief upon their shoulders.

But we shouldn’t ignore it all together. Not talking about it, in my opinion, causes more problems.

All too often in any given week, we have at least one suicide in our area. News makes its way through the neighborhood grapevine, rumors, sometimes social media. But in general, the media will not report on it.

I often ask myself what can I do that doesn’t ignore the epidemic, but at the same time not bring more grief to the family?

I can ask you to pay attention to your friends and family when they seem depressed. I can ask you to seek help if you are thinking about taking your own life.

I can tell you that yes, sometimes people will say they want to kill themselves so often that we just become numb to it. Try very hard not to become so numb.

A while back someone I know only vaguely made some pretty odd remarks on social media and I entered into a dialogue with them. Some mutual friends saw it and messaged me, telling me not to waste my time. He was just drunk, and wanted attention, they said.

Maybe. Maybe not. But maybe having someone that just reminds them they are loved, and just needs to talk to someone can change an outcome.

I have lost friends to suicide. I have had a lot more friends who tried suicide, and fortunately did not succeed. It is just such a waste.  A permanent solution to a temporary problem most of the time.

In so many cases, those who have decided to end their lives do not show the “classic” signs of depression that most of us have been taught to look for. In those cases, perhaps we question ourselves after their death, wondering if we missed something. I certainly have.

I don’t have the answers. But if anyone reading this is thinking about ending your life, please, please talk to someone you trust and love. Seek help. There should be no shame in this. Help is truly available.

I want you to read this article I saw today. It spoke to me. The link is,339546?fbclid=IwAR0qlGHc6fAOE0XUazsmQSlyb8GmfDwci6CcE8s4YZf4OusGe9KZ0Z_vM4s

The National Suicide Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.