Signs will be affixed at key locations throughout Harford County
Healthy Harford, as part of the Local Health Improvement Coalition (LHIC) Behavioral Health Suicide Prevention Workgroup, is purchasing and posting 10 suicide prevention signs at key locations throughout Harford County.
According to 2014-18 data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s County Health Rankings, Harford County’s suicide rate is higher than the state average and three times higher than the county homicide rate. Given the impact of recent stressors, there is every indication that the suicide rates in our community are trending in the wrong direction.
The 18-inch by 12-inch “You Are Not Alone” signs feature a semicolon design in the form of a butterfly. The semicolon has become a symbol of solidarity between people dealing with mental illness or the death of someone from suicide. As defined by Project Semicolon, a national suicide awareness organization, “a semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence but chose not to. The author is you, and the sentence is your life.”
The suicide prevention signs are part of a larger suicide prevention effort that includes links to mental health services at The Klein Family Harford Crisis Center, early mental health intervention through schools, efforts to destigmatize mental health issues and safe gun storage.
“Despite an ongoing national health crisis, mental illness is shrouded by stigma and remains hidden in our communities,” said Harford County Executive Barry Glassman. “My administration is committed to illuminating a path to mental wellness in Harford County and addressing these issues head-on, with dignity and without fear or shame.”
Bari Klein, executive director of Healthy Harford, said, “Harford County’s rise in suicides over the last two years is a serious public health issue. We need to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and talk about suicide directly, honestly and empathetically. Everyone has an important role to play to reach out to those in crisis and let them know that help is available. Posting these signs of hope and linking people to available resources is a step in the right direction.”
According to Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, 50 percent of suicides involve a firearm. The Suicide Prevention Workgroup emphasizes safe firearm storage through gun locks, storing ammunition and firearms separately, and utilizing a temporary off-site storage facility if someone at a home is at risk.
The Klein Family Harford Crisis Center provides help 24/7 by calling the 800-NEXT-STEP hotline. Walk-in services are available 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at 802 Baltimore Pike in Bel Air. More information may be found at harfordcrisiscenter.org.
About Healthy Harford
Healthy Harford is a nonprofit coalition of local government agencies, businesses, nonprofits and citizens dedicated to improving the health of Harford County residents. For more information, visit healthyharford.org.
About University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health
University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health includes the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center and the Patricia D. and M. Scot Kaufman Cancer Center on its Bel Air campus. Most recently, it opened The Klein Family Harford Crisis Center in Bel Air offering services for behavioral health. The Senator Bob Hooper House in Forest Hill is an assisted living facility that specializes in hospice. The University of Maryland Harford Memorial Hospital has been operating in the community for over a century and is located in Havre de Grace. The leading health care system and largest private employer in Harford County, UM Upper Chesapeake Health offers a broad range of health care services, specialty care, technology and facilities to the residents of northeastern Maryland. Visit umuch.org for more information.