Local activist encourages mental health discussion - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Local activist encourages mental health discussion

Danko says suicide is a topic that many tend to shy away from discussing. (Photo source: WLOX) Danko says suicide is a topic that many tend to shy away from discussing. (Photo source: WLOX)
Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the state. (Photo source: AFSP) Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the state. (Photo source: AFSP)
GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

Hundreds of people in Mississippi die by suicide each year, something Theresa Danko knows all too well.

After suicide became an unfortunate part of her world, she chose to dedicate her free time to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

"It was a few years after my son Sebastian had passed," said Danko. "He did take his life when he was 19."

Danko now travels across the state to educate parents about the warning signs of depression. Key behavioral red flags include sleeping too much or too little, aggression, or withdrawal from friends and family.

There's also another important sign that Danko says she saw in her son. 

"The isolation, not wanting to be active in school, and his curriculum in school. Just not the typical involvement that he may have always had," said Danko. 

Death by suicide isn't as uncommon as some may think. According to a 2015 study but the Centers for Disease Control, it's the 12th leading cause of death in Mississippi; the second leading cause for ages 10 - 24.

On average, a Mississippian takes their life every 20 hours. Danko says it's problem that no one wants to talk about it.

"I think everywhere it's not out in the open, unfortunately, and that's what we have to change. We have to change that stigma to be more open," said the activist. 

Kevin Cuttil says the resources from the foundation are useful for anyone dealing with mental health issues. 

"We work with veterans and this year we've lost two veterans due to PTSD," said Cuttil. "So, we started getting involved with suicide prevention. We wanted to learn more because it's hard to educate others if you're ignorant about it."

For more information on warning signs and how to talk to children about suicide, visit www.AFSP.org.

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