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Despite the best efforts of two powerhouse foundations focused on preventing suicide, rates of such deaths continue to rise.
Now, the two non profit organizations, Team Forever Young, and See a New Sun Foundation are merging in an effort to reach more people and teach them how to identify and help someone contemplating suicide.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide rates rose more than 30 percent in half of all U.S. states since 1999. In fact, between 1999 and 2016, suicide rates in Massachusetts rose 35.3 percent. While some states increased between only 1 and 18 percent, none of the country’s 52 states showed a decrease within that time frame. .
“In 2014, Middlesex county had the highest number of suicides (n=115, 7.3/100,000), according to a 2017 report prepared by the state Department of Public Health.” “Franklin county had the highest rate of suicide (16.9/100,000, n=12).” “The county with the lowest measurable rate in 2014 was Suffolk (6.5/100,000, n= 50).”
Westford-based “Team Forever Young” and Littleton-based “See a New Sun Foundation” have been working to prevent suicide and have been combating the stigma of mental illness for years through fundraising efforts and teaching. While one focuses on fundraising the other concentrates on teaching.
“…We’re hoping to get more involved locally and to really do some hands on (assistance),” said Nancy Cook who founded Team Forever Young.
Over the past decade, Cook’s team raised more than $650K for the “American Foundation for Suicide Prevention,” which has a goal of reducing incidents of suicide by 20 percent over the next six years. Team Forever Young is composed of a group of Westford residents who participate each year in the “Out of the Darkness” 18 mile walk in the dead of night. Annual donations flow in for the cause.
“See a New Sun Foundation” has been focused on educating pre-teens and teens on how to recognize the signs of suicide. The foundation’s nationally recognized program, called Signs of Suicide Prevention or SOS, teaches middle and high school students how to identify the symptoms of depression and suicide and how to seek help for themselves or a friend. The program targets 11 to 17-year-olds.
“…It all starts at home. We have to take care of our kids,”said Cook.