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Dozens Of Pinwheels On Display In New Rochelle To Mark Lives Lost For Suicide Awareness And Prevention Month

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.

Last year, Westchester County saw an increase, a trend that adds urgency to efforts in September, a month which is dedicated to suicide awareness and prevention, CBS2's Tony Aiello reported Wednesday.

A display of colorful pinwheels in New Rochelle tells a concerning story.

One pinwheel represents each completed suicide in Westchester County in 2020.

"They represent, each of these pinwheels, a human life. Someone that loved and was loved. A mother, a father, a sister or brother, a daughter or son," Westchester County Executive George Latimer said during a Wednesday briefing.

County officials believe the pandemic is partly to blame for a 14% rise in suicide deaths.

"We had 78 completed suicides of individuals in our county in 2020. In the past, typically, we've ranged from 65 to 68 completed suicides," said Michael Orth, commissioner of the Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health.

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September is Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month.

The county is working with many schools and 80 churches to make vital resources available.

"To explore the taboo conversation about suicide, especially within the Black church, we don't talk about it. Now we're talking about it," Calvary Baptist Church Pastor Erwin Tollinger said.

While it's an issue in every community, statistics show white middle age men are the demographic most likely to die by suicide, with many experiencing medical issues, significant loss of employment, or other stressors in life.

Experts say family and friends observing words, behavior, and mood, and then opening a conversation is key to intervention.

"It seems like something is different with you, sounds like you've been struggling. How can I help? Or, what can we do to help you?" said Orth. "That first opening the door to the conversation is probably the most important step to take."

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is a valuable resource to learn more. Call 800-273-8255 or text "TALK" to 741741.

Because there is help available, there is hope that next year there will be fewer pinwheels on display.

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