Promoting Hope and Preventing Suicide

September 16, 2021

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Let’s join hands and lift up hope – to reduce the stigma associated with accessing mental health services and raise awareness of suicide prevention.

We can all play a role in prevention. Suicide is a public health issue that devastates families, friends and communities. It remains the second leading cause of death among U.S. teenagers, and rates of youth suicide and self-injury hospitalization are on the rise, especially among younger adolescents (Kids Data). Marin County has among the highest suicide rates in the Bay Area. Although the majority of people who have depression do not die by suicide, having major depression does increase suicide risk compared to people without depression ( In 2019, youth depression in Marin County was 36%, up from 30% in 2016, and higher than the statewide average of 32% (Healthy Marin).

NMCS Director of Wellness Programs, Alaina Cantor, LCSW, shares,

“We have seen a rise in the demand for mental health services. Over the past year, NMCS clinicians supported 800 people with therapy primarily through virtual or telemental health services. Fortunately, we are now able to increase our onsite services in partnership with NUSD school campuses, at the Novato Teen Clinic and here at our 680 Wilson Ave Center. With increased demand, we have also onboarded nine new clinicians and two new clinical supervisors. We will be able to continue to offer both in-person and telemental health care in our community. As more people struggle with the impacts of trauma and prolonged stress, we have trained all our staff in trauma-informed care and risk assessment, so they are able to screen for suicidal ideation (thoughts) which can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background.”

Suicide survivors, the people who have lost a loved one to suicide, are often left with complex and traumatic grief, and fortunately there is support and tools available in our community: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Survivors of Suicide (SOS) Peer Support Group – Buckelew Programs.

Two NMCS staff members chose to share their personal stories of loss in order to increase awareness.

Johana and Mental Health Navigator Romina Labanca

NMCS Mental Health Navigator, Romina Labanca, shared,

“The tragic and sudden loss of my partner to suicide a few years ago, caused me to view life in a completely different way. My world completely changed instantaneously. It made me so angry at the world, that someone I loved so much had lived a life filled with trauma and pain. No matter how much I loved her, my partner, Johana, continued to struggle and a lack of access to affordable therapy resulted in her death by suicide at age 29. After this horrendous experience, I became passionate about the importance of affordable mental health services. I joined the NMCS’ Mental Health team and am now empowered to help other young people access services.”

CEO Cheryl Paddack with friend Charys

The risk of suicide varies greatly by age, sex, and race, and by personal characteristics including education, occupation, family history, and place of residence. For all age groups, depression is a key factor (Reducing Suicide: A National Imperative).

“Three years ago, my best friend Charys died by suicide at age 57,” expressed Cheryl Paddack, NMCS Chief Executive Officer. “The sudden loss of her 21 year old son Satchel two years prior, combined with her lifelong struggle with depression, left Charys with desperate feelings of no future. Her strong network of friends and family did not know the depths of her silent suffering. It has been a long, deep period of grieving for our families and friends, and one that unfortunately other families who have experienced this sudden loss know too well. I sought more funding and increased trainings here at NMCS to help prevent other suicides. Some of the suicide prevention trainings NMCS staff have taken and offered to our community include safeTALK and Mental Health First Aid Training. Through these trainings, I am empowered to Know the Signs.”

Charys and her son Satchel

If you or someone you know needs help, please know that you are not alone. Crisis lines, counselors, intervention programs, and more are available to you, whether you are in crisis yourself or concerned about someone else.

North Marin Community Services has mental health services available. Our person-centered approach offers individuals and families a chance to achieve a better quality of life where they can feel hope. We provide integrated trauma-informed and culturally-centered services to children, adolescents, families, and adults who would benefit from mental health services and supports. Contact (415) 892-1643, ext 239 (se habla Espanol) for a confidential phone assessment.

As a private nonprofit, donations keep our mental health services low cost and affordable. Thank you for joining hands and lifting up hope with us at North Marin Community Services.

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