Sisters launch effort aimed at suicide prevention and mental health awareness

CINCINNATI (WXIX) – Two sisters deeply affected by suicide are raising awareness for mental health in the tri-state.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, emergency room visits for suspected suicide attempts among young people have skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic.

Alison Stouder and Courtney Pittman have dealt with the issue firsthand.

Pittman’s stepfather committed suicide shortly after marrying his son. She describes him as “the life of the party”, indeed the kind of person who doesn’t know a stranger.

Alison, meanwhile, lost her cousin, Michael, to suicide just two months ago. She says that besides being her cousin, Michael was also her best friend.

The sisters created “Mental Health Matters” to raise awareness about suicide prevention.

They sell sweatshirts, keychains, mugs and more with messages that say “Stay, tomorrow needs you”. The articles also feature the Suicide Hotline number.

“I feel like if people can be like, ‘Hey, what’s that number on that key ring or that shirt,’ and just a simple, ‘Oh, that’s the line number’ suicide hotline, it might help people,'” Stouder said.

Nancy Eigel-Miller is executive director of 1N5, a regional non-profit organization that focuses on mental health education in schools and throughout the community.

Eigel-Miller says those who die by suicide often show preliminary signs, including personality changes, trouble sleeping, weight loss or gain, isolation, risky behavior and alcohol consumption or drug.

“The numbers have increased dramatically over the past year and a half to two years, both nationally and here locally,” Eigel-Miller said.

CDC data confirms this. Emergency room visits for suspected suicide attempts among 12-17 year olds, especially girls, began to rise in 2020, the data shows.

In 2021, according to the data, these same visits were 50.7% higher among girls aged 12 to 17 compared to 2019.

Stouder and Pittman hope to tackle the problem head-on. A portion of every order from their online store is donated to the Mental Health Foundation. Their goal is to spread the messages that no one needs to feel alone and that all of life matters.

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