One person dies by suicide in the United States every 11.2 minutes.

That’s 129 lives lost per day in this country to suicide, which experts say is the most preventable leading cause of death in the U.S.

We should not be OK with that statistic, yet the rates of death by suicide never seem to diminish. According to the American Association of Suicidology, they’re actually increasing — from 11.5 deaths per 100,000 people in 2007 to 14.5 deaths a decade later.

And for whatever reason — is it fear? is it shame? — we as a society still don’t like to talk much about suicide and how to prevent it.

Imagine how strange that is, given that we actively celebrate awareness of so many other causes of death.

The leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2017 was heart disease, and communities everywhere stage Heart Walks through the American Heart Association to raise money for awareness and research. Cancer (the second leading cause) and diabetes (the seventh leading cause) — there are walks for those too. Even the third leading cause of death, accidents, has campaigns to restrict a type of harm that leads specifically to car accidents — texting while driving.

Ozark Center, the behavioral health services branch of Freeman Health System, is trying to turn that societal response around.

As it has done for the past several years, it will offer its own suicide awareness event today for Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, which is recognized each September. There will be a balloon release in honor of those who have died by suicide, plus trainings for adults to recognize signs of suicide in others and how to respond. Free depression screenings also will be offered.

If you have been affected by suicide in any way or want to help friends and family who might be suffering, we urge you to attend today’s free event. Debbie Fitzgerald, director of crisis services for Ozark Center, promises that it will be a safe place for everyone.

And as always, if you’re experiencing a crisis, call a hotline for immediate help. Ozark Center can be reached at 417-347-7720, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.

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