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"Priority concerns": Harford County launches billboards, PSAs about youth suicide

Billboard in Harford County
Posted at 2:31 PM, Jul 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-07 14:31:11-04

Harford County is releasing public-service announcements at local theaters, and posting billboards, to raise awareness about youth suicide - a top concern for local agencies.

Billboards will be posted starting Aug. 1 at the Route 1/Route 543 intersection in Bel Air and along Route 40 in Havre de Grace, announced Harford County government. Fifteen-second PSAs will also be shown starting later this month at Abingdon's Regal movie theater and the Horizon theaters in Aberdeen and Fallston; they'll run through September.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death nationwide for youth ages 10 to 14. (The top cause is accidental injuries.)

Harford County spokesperson Cindy Mumby said county human service agencies agree that self-harm and suicide are priority concerns.

While data on attempted suicides and deaths are difficult to obtain and often under reported, the Harford County Health Department reports that 310 Harford County youth aged 0-17 presented with suicidal ideation in 2019, 224 in 2020, and 246 in 2021. Of course, even one child lost to suicide is too many.

In Maryland, suicide is the second leading cause of death in 5-14-year-olds and the third leading cause of death in 15-24-year-olds, said health department spokesperson Ronya Nassar. According to the 2020 Harford County Vital Statistics Report from the Maryland Department of Health, suicide was the 13th leading cause of death for Harford County residents.

County leaders have also launched a website, HarfordTalks.com, and are offering free monthly suicide-prevention trainings to anyone over 14. The interactive, 2-hour training is called "Question, Persuade, Refer" and will next be held July 11 at Mt. Zion Church in Bel Air. To register, visit https://www.harfordcountymd.gov/449/Office-of-Drug-Control-Policy .

County Executive Barry Glassman said in a statement:

It’s heartbreaking to think that any child could feel so hopeless they would consider suicide. We must do all we can to prevent suicide and remove the stigma around mental health that often prevents someone from seeking help. By talking openly and sharing resources we can save lives.

For specialized training for youth, veterans, farmers, first responders and faith-based communities, call the Office of Drug Control policy at 410-638-3333. Anyone interested in helping to reduce suicide in Harford County can call Tara Lathrop, administrator in the Office of Drug Control Policy, at 410-638-3333.