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Mental health experts address suicide prevention during COVID pandemic

While September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day, the necessity of mental health services has been routinely brought to the forefront during the COVID pandemic.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — COVID-19 has impacted several aspects of our day-to-day lives, and for many, it's even taken a toll on their mental health.

Thursday marks World Suicide Prevention Day. 2 on Your Side spoke to local mental health experts about their efforts to help those who might be struggling. 

"We really want people to know that there is hope and there is help especially in those moments when that doesn't seem to be possible," said Jessica Pirro, the CEO of Crisis Services.

Throughout the pandemic, the necessity of mental health services has been brought to the forefront.

That's something Elizabeth Woike-Ganga, the President & CEO of BestSelf Behavioral Health, has seen firsthand.

Woike-Ganga said, "We're seeing overall increased demand for services and unfortunately, we're also seeing an increase in suicidal behavior, suicide attempts." 

However, Pirro said in Erie County the pandemic hasn't resulted in an increase in suicide numbers locally. 

Pirro explained, "Community residents do reach out for help. They do seek services and we haven't seen that spike that was predicted maybe throughout the country." She added, "I believe that Erie County really stood up and stood together when COVID started around the issue of mental health."

Still, Pirro stressed the continued importance of raising awareness, sharing resources and spreading the message that help is available.

BestSelf is getting some support from the federal government with a short-term, COVID-related grant. The grant is meant to address suicide and domestic violence intervention. 

Woike-Ganga told 2 On Your Side, "I think it will make a great deal of difference. It was an 800,000 dollar grant so really that's gonna allow us to provide a number of staff to coordinate in the community and get people access to treatment immediately, work with our hospitals and our other community stakeholders and also do quite a bit of suicide prevention in the community." 

Woike-Ganga's advice is to pay attention to your loved ones and be mindful of changes in behavior.

"If they start talking about giving items away or being hopeless, things like that, you should really be reaching out for help from Crisis Services or from an agency like BestSelf to help find an intervention and an effective treatment for that person," she explained. 

Pirro added, "They're not alone and we really wanna assure their safety, health and provide hope."

  • Crisis Services 24 Hour Crisis Hotline: 716-834-3131
  • Click here for more information on BestSelf.
  • Click here for more information on Crisis Services. 
  • Click here to watch Crisis Service's Facebook Live honoring World Suicide Prevention Day. 
  • Click here to learn of Governor Andrew Cuomo's digital campaign to raise awareness on Suicide Prevention Day in New York.