Task force created to fight suicide

A task force has been formed to look into the problem of suicides in Montgomery, Houston, Humphreys and Stewart counties.

The counties were selected because they've had more than their share of suicides when compared to the rest of the state, Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network Executive Director Scott Ridgeway told The Leaf-Chronicle (http://leafne.ws/yCqMCp).

Ridgeway said Cindy Johnson, who is the Community Education Director for the Behavioral Health Care Center at Clarksville, will lead the task force. He said Johnson has worked tirelessly against the problem since losing her son to suicide in 2009.

Ridgeway said Johnson was selected because he considered her “one of the best examples I know of someone turning their grief and pain into action.”

Since losing her son, Johnson has given several interviews, recorded public service announcements and worked with suicide survivor groups to combat the problem. She also wrote a book about her experience titled “Turning Tragedy into Hope — Becoming the Person You Never Even Imagined You Could Be.”

The decision to set up an autonomous task force targeting the region came after nearby Fort Campbell, which straddles the Tennessee-Kentucky state line, worked with the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network to bring down its suicide rate.

Ridgeway said similar groups that formed in other areas have also had success at bringing down suicide rates when they educate people about suicide prevention and mental health issues.

The main goal of the new task force is to reduce Tennessee's' suicide rate by holding education and awareness events targeting both the general public and groups deemed at-risk. It also seeks to remove the stigma of suicide.

The panel will work closely with veterans and their family members and help Fort Campbell with outreach. It will also spread information about the Clarksville Survivors of Suicide support group.

The task force will hold its first public event in March.

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Information from: The Leaf-Chronicle, http://www.theleafchronicle.com

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