In an effort to raise public awareness about suicide prevention, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh announced the city’s partnership with a support organization called Samaritans of Boston on Saturday during the 5K Run/Walk for Suicide Prevention hosted by Samaritans, according to a Saturday press release.
The partnership will include workshops that will educate various city department officials on how to work with populations prone to suicide risk, the release stated.
City departments involved include Veteran Services, the Boston Centers for Youth and Families — which runs programs for street workers and the elderly — and the Boston Public Health Commission, according to the release.
Walsh informed residents of suicide risks and how to help prevent suicide attempts in high-risk populations.
“Suicide is a public health concern, and educating residents about existing resources, and identifying the risk signs of people who may harm themselves can help save lives,” Walsh said in the release. “As a City, we are only as strong as our people, and I am thankful to partners like the Samaritans for their work to fight suicide and save lives.”
According to the release, suicide rates have increased by 38 percent since 2003, with current rates four times more frequent than homicides.
Felix Arroyo, the chief of Health and Human Services in Boston, said the partnership will generate productive discussions over suicide prevention in many different demographics.
“Suicide does not discriminate,” Arroyo said. “Suicide impacts people regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity. The partnership will ensure we continue open and honest conversations about preventing suicide.”
Steve Mongeau, the executive director of Samaritans, said the workshops the group hold are part of the their regular services. Other services the group offers include peer-to-peer support group meetings and a 24/7 helpline for those “feeling isolated, desperate or uncertain” — a service he said the city can largely collaborate in, he said.
“Although we’ve been around for over 40 years and had tens of thousands of attendees around to our workshops over time, we’ve actually not delivered a workshop in a Boston Public School until this year,” Mongeau said. “We have yet to deliver a workshop where we weren’t invited to come back the following year and do it again.”
Several Boston residents voiced support toward the partnership and said suicide is vital problem that should be dealt with.
Kevin McCullough, 35, of Fenway, said although he does not know much of Samaritans’ programs, the suicide problem in Boston still needs more attention.
“Any steps taken to help people that are in need of suicide prevention treatment I think is a good step,” he said. “It’s not something I’ve specifically heard within Boston, but I do view it as a serious problem.”
Chris Psilakis, 25, of the North End, said the solutions should be found to mitigate the problem.
“It’s a good, proactive thing for them to do,” he said. “It’s pretty common. My buddy’s brother committed suicide, and it’s definitely a serious matter that people should look into.”
Surrey Houlker, 18, of Chinatown, said the homeless population are especially prone to mental health issues, which can lead to suicide.
“The current mayor has been doing actually a lot to combat the homeless issue and issues in relation to mental health,” she said. “[The partnership] helps get rid of stigma surrounding mental illness, and I think that is absolutely a step in the right direction in getting it to be a more publicly talked issue.”