TAMPA, Fla. — We all know there are people struggling in many ways during this pandemic. September 10 marks World Suicide Prevention Day, and advocates and families alike want you to know that resources are available for you or your family at any time.
“Erich was just probably one of the most loving, kind, brilliant young men that you would ever hope to meet,” said Grace Hamilton. “He didn’t know a stranger. He always looked after the guy who seemed to be in the shadows.”
Hamilton’s 25-year-old son, Erich Schindler, dealt with his own shadows. She says Erich struggled with clinical depression. He died by suicide on April 14, 2015.
“I’ll be honest with you, [and] I’m going to cry, it basically has destroyed my family,” said Hamilton.
“Calls that pre-COVID would take us seven to nine minutes to help individuals get the resources that they needed, those calls were now taking 15 to 20 minutes because it took us a while to unpack all of the things that individuals were facing,” said Crisis Center of Tampa Bay President and CEO Clara Reynolds.
The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay tells ABC Action News they’re seeing an uptick in calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline during the COVID-19 pandemic. They say calls in August were 15% higher compared to June.
Reynolds says they can work with families so they learn how to have these important conversations with a loved one.
“Oftentimes, we’re afraid as individuals in the community that if we say the word suicide we’re somehow going to plant this idea in somebody’s head,” said Reynolds. “That’s absolutely a myth. You are not going to do that. What you’re going to do is give that person an opportunity to talk about how they’re feeling and an opportunity to be heard.”
Laurie Elbow is the Director of Clinical Services at Suncoast Center. She says look for signs of hopelessness and helplessness.
“I think they think, 'If I call the police or I call the hotline, I might end up in the hospital, and I might not have a say so in what happens next,” said Elbow. “The truth is there are lots of options for reaching out and getting help. There are lots of resources in our community, and the hotline can help you with that and help with getting connected.”
To those struggling, Hamilton says help is out there.
“I’ll be damned if my son’s going to ever be back in the darkness again. Every day I wake up making that decision to keep my son in the light,” said Hamilton.
The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay urges people to call and connect to the resources they may need. You can dial "211" 24 hours a day, seven days a week for free, confidential crisis counseling. You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).