Home Viewpoints: Bringing suicide prevention out of the darkness

Viewpoints: Bringing suicide prevention out of the darkness


viewpoints logoShirley Ramsey lost her son, Jackson, to suicide in 2010. Her mother, grandmother and a nephew also died by suicide.

Ramsey didn’t plan to become an advocate for suicide prevention at the state and national level. She was just seeking a foundation for strength and understanding of what had happened around her.

“Over 43,000 people die by suicide in the United States every year, and of course, you can imagine the impact that it has on the loved ones, on family members, and those people need support. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention does a lot to support those who have been touched by suicide. I’ve somewhat led a life of bereavement and loss to suicide, and I’ve found this organization has given me a lot of strength, and helped me understand suicide,” said Ramsey, the chair of the Virginia chapter of AFSP.

Ramsey was a guest on this week’s Viewpoints on WVPT, joined by Rebecca Textor, the program coordinator of Lock and Talk Virginia, an innovative program that focuses on lethal means safety and awareness.

Lethal means safety involves “keeping devices that may be used to complete suicide safe if you have someone you care about in crisis,” said Textor, sharing that Lock and Talk Virginia has given away more than 7,500 trigger locks and 1,500 locking medication boxes in Western and Central Virginia, and forged partnerships with more than 100 gun retailers and gun ranges in the region.

The other piece of the approach is talk.

“Let’s open the conversation and reduce the stigma surrounding it, get the education out there for intervention skills and alertness skills training, and start saying, hey, this is OK. We’re going to reduce our rates of suicide if we open the conversation and become educated,” Textor said.

The locking may be easier than the talking.

“To come out and ask someone directly is super hard to do, but crucial,” Textor said. “Sometimes the person who is considering suicide doesn’t know if they’re going to be judged, or if they’re going to be allowed to talk about this pain, this decision that they’re trying to make.

“When you ask directly, someone with the kind of pain that you’re showing me, sometimes they’re considering suicide, by asking directly, that can produce that relief that the person at risk might feel, like, I can talk to you, I can open up a little bit. That’s the door, and then the listening begins.”


If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).


A key to the talk with someone that you’re concerned about: “If you are concerned about someone who is struggling, or if you yourself are struggling, reach out to someone as if you are the only one,” Ramsey said.

“You may not be the only one, but reach out with that thinking in mind. Because you may be the only one to talk to them.”

Be on the lookout for certain risk factors: “The way they act, their changes of mood. Someone may mention it. They may talk about being overburdened, or that they’re a burden to other people. They might bring up that someone had died. It might seem to be on their mind quite a bit in the things they say,” Ramsey said.

Another key: don’t be dismissive.

“One thing you hear is that someone will say this as a way of getting attention. If someone is mentioning suicide, that means it’s in their thought process, and we need to pay attention to that,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey talked up the upcoming Greater Augusta Out of the Darkness Walk, scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 8, at Gypsy Hill Park in Staunton.

It was an Out of the Darkness Walk several years ago that brought Ramsey to suicide prevention.

“When I went to the first one, it was a feeling of hope and support. Because you’re not alone when you come to a walk,” Ramsey said. “When you look around and see all of these people, and you look at this sea of people, and realize that all of these people have come together because they want to prevent suicide, they want to seek resources, they want to find out what to do, what to say, and they really want to find out what to do with the grief of the loss. It is a loss that is so difficult to deal with and talk about.”


#WhyIWalk: Greater Augusta Out of the Darkness

  • Walk With Us on October 8
  • Walk Location: Gypsy Hill Park in Staunton
  • Check-in/Registration Time: 10/08/2016 at 8:00 am
  • Walk Begins: 10:00 am
  • Walk Ends: 12:30 pm



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