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Suicide Prevention takes center stage in September

Mountain City resident Kathy Motsinger reflects on her tragic personal loss to suicide, and works to ensure others will never have to experience the pain it brings. Submitted photo

By Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

Suicide continues among the leading cause of death nationally and impacts the lives of countless Americans. As World Suicide Prevention Day 2020 falls smack dab in the middle of a world pandemic, which has upended nearly every aspect of people’s lives and mental health is no exception.The special day, Sept 10, is set aside to bring awareness and understanding to those who have been impacted by suicide and initiate preventative measures.

Preventing suicide is a personal mission of Kathy Motsinger, Johnson County Senior Center Director, especially since she lost both her son and her husband. “It’s something I never talk about and usually chose not to,” she explained, “but we are living in difficult times during this pandemic, and hopefully, my speaking out will help someone.” 

Motsinger says she is reluctant to discuss the reason for their deaths or even say the dreadful word “suicide,” advising when people inquire, she typically responds with “they were sick” instead of using the other word.

There is a wide-ranging list of symptoms of suicidal tendencies, including threatening or talking about suicide, excessive sadness or moodiness, and withdrawal from friends or social activities. It is important to be attuned, as well, to statements that might indicate that a loved one no longer cares about life or feels they are a burden. The pandemic’s effect on already rising suicide rates heightens worry.

“Mental health is something that has become dear to my heart and during COVID-19,” said Motsinger. “More people have died from suicide than the coronavirus, and the number is completely shocking and breaks my heart.”

With isolation and loneliness growing among older adults in the age of COVID, the risk of death by suicide in this age group increases significantly.

“Our senior population is feeling isolated while being quarantined and becoming depressed,” said Motsinger. “We are seeing it with our senior center members.” She challenges everyone to check on elderly neighbors or call someone who is isolated and alone. “It will mean the world to them,” she said, “and will bless you more than it will them.”

“I have realized how important it is to live every day like it’s your last,” said Motsinger. “We never know what tomorrow holds, but we can make a difference in someone’s life today.”