BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Dozens of people stood in front of the Edward A. Rath County Office Building Tuesday afternoon in recognition of Wold Suicide Prevention Day and Suicide Prevention Week.
Local leaders, mental health experts and advocates came together to say there are signs and symptoms people can recognize, and that it's okay to talk about feelings.
"We care about you, we love you, you matter to us, you matter to each and every one of the individuals here, and we want you to understand that there will be a better day," said County Executive Mark Poloncarz.
This effort is focusing on men's mental health, as experts say suicide rates among men in their middle years are high.
"Some obstacles that prevent men from getting help is stigma. There's a certain bravado that we tend to try to adhere to," said Commissioner of Mental Health Michael Ranney.
This effort also highlights the importance of getting help.
"I'm a survivor of suicide. In the early years of my illness I made several attempts to take my life," said Karl Shallowhorn. "I was able to get connected with a therapist who I was comfortable speaking with."
Experts say suicide rates are high nationwide. In Erie County, thanks to the collaborative work within the community, the suicide rate is dropping.
"For the first time in several years, our 2018 statistics have shown a decrease in our deaths. It's the first time in a long time," said Crisis Services CEO Jessica Pirro.
Erie County is one of four counties that the New York State Office of Suicide Prevention has chosen to be part of a two-year study.
A fatality review team will review suicide death cases and see what prevention efforts can be made to enhance response in the county.
If you or someone you know needs help, the local hotline is (716) 834-3131.