Mental Illness Awareness and Suicide Prevention 

In Pinellas County, there are thousands of individuals who suffer from a mental health condition. Many of them have never been diagnosed, received treatment, or are even aware there is a problem. Nevertheless, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is focused on ensuring the safety of these men and women and the individuals around them, as well as reducing stigmas and educating the public about the resources available to help them.
 
Last year, 40 percent of the homeless men and women who stayed in Pinellas Safe Harbor (Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office operated homeless facility) admitted to suffering from a mental illness. In addition, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office responded to 1,246 calls about a suicidal person, and 3,054 calls directly related to an emotionally disturbed person. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates have increased in every U.S. state except Nevada, and more than half of the people who die by suicide are not aware they have a mental health condition. 
 
It is important to know that there are steps you can take to recognize the warning signs for suicide and how to help a person who may be thinking about taking his or her own life. First, get involved; second, be prepared for an emergency by knowing who to call, keeping a first aid kit readily available, and knowing CPR; and third, know about the professional resources available for support and treatment. 
 
If you, or someone you know, exhibits any of the following warning signals, take the possibility of suicide seriously. 
 
Warning Signs:
 
Talking about suicide and death
Sleeping and eating disturbances
Drastic changes in behavior
Social withdraw and isolation
Self-mutilation
Drug or alcohol abuse
Difficulties at work or school
 
Most importantly, be open and sensitive to the person who is suffering from a mental health issue. Talking to people about the problem is a key step to working through the crisis. Counseling, medication, and diet and exercise are all crucial to preventing a suicide attempt or episode resulting from a mental illness. 
 
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, you can get help immediately by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. If you or anyone you know is in imminent danger, call 9-1-1. 
 
You can also receive mental health care through Personal Enrichment Through Mental Health Services (PEMHS), which offers emergency screening and crisis intervention, inpatient services for adults and children, and a 24-hour mental health assistance hotline at 727-541-4628. Additionally, Tampa Bay Cares is a local organization that helps individuals find and connect to resources in times of crisis. You can call their hotline at 2-1-1.
 
Remember, mental health and suicide are issues that require your engagement. We are leading the way to a safer Pinellas, and that starts with community awareness and prevention. 
Posted by Michelle Whiting Thursday, March 7, 2019 11:08:00 AM

Just Drive, The Rest Can Wait 

Every time you get behind the wheel, you face many distractions. Speeding drivers and wayward pedestrians make it crucial to keep your eyes on the road at all times. Then, when you add the distractions from the inside of your car, you make your commute even more dangerous. 
 
Too often, individuals try to multitask while operating their vehicles. The top offenders are texting, eating, changing the radio station, applying makeup, and tending to pets and children while driving.  
 
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving resulted in 3,450 deaths in 2016. The Florida Highway Patrol also reported distracted drivers have increased 25 percent since 2013, and about one-tenth of fatal crashes in 2017 involved distractions. 
 
Drivers can be distracted in three main ways: taking their eyes off the road, taking their hands off the wheel, or taking their minds off what they are doing. Florida Highway Patrol officers even report that many accidents are caused simply by daydreaming. In addition, numerous cell phone users find themselves checking their phones even when they don’t notice the phone ringing or vibrating. Distractions can be physical or mental, and combining the two types increases your chances of getting into an accident. 
 
This month, we are asking Pinellas County citizens to consider how they may be creating an unsafe environment on the road due to distractions. Florida law enforcement agencies are partnering together in April for Distracted Driving Awareness Month to promote safe habits behind the wheel. 
 
The NHTSA says that teens were actually the largest age group reported as distracted at the time of fatal crashes. In order to teach our youth safe driving and to lead the way for a safer Pinellas, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office organizes the Targeted Response Against Distracted Driving (TRADD) program in partnership with the State Farm Youth Advisory Board every year. Our deputies lead presentations in Pinellas County schools to demonstrate the dangers of using a cell phone, eating, and many other tasks while operating a vehicle. 
 
Some tips for preventing distractions on the road are:
 
1. Place your cell phone out of sight so that you are not tempted to text or have phone conversations while driving.
2. If you have passengers in the car, ask for their help so you can focus on driving—such as changing the radio station or adjusting the navigation system.
3. Properly restrain your pets or children in the car prior to starting the vehicle so they don’t move freely in the car during your trip. 
4. If you ever feel tired, sick, or distracted, pull over and take a break until you are mentally and physically ready to operate your vehicle again.
 
Remember to think twice before letting anything come between you and reaching your destination safely. Just drive, the rest can wait. 
Posted by Michelle Whiting Thursday, March 7, 2019 11:04:00 AM

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