Chattanooga Times Free Press
Franklin mayor, police call on faith leaders amid suicide uptick
“I’m reaching out to you out of desperation We all need to partner to save some lives. … To say we’re on the verge of a mental health crisis would be an understatement.
— FRANKLIN POLICE CHIEF DEB FAULKNER
Editor’s note: This story discusses suicide. If you or a loved one are at risk, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.
Franklin, Tennessee, Mayor Ken Moore called on faith leaders to provide support in a mission to lessen local stigma surrounding mental health amid an August uptick in suicides.
Within just the first week of August, three people died by suicide in Franklin. The city has seen seven suicides in 2021 thus far. Between January and July, there were 23 attempts and 57 threats.
As part of the Finding Hope Franklin initiative launched in spring 2020, Moore called faith leaders to action in a Zoom call Aug. 30. He requested religious communities get involved in discussing and addressing mental health and suicide.
Franklin Police Chief Deb Faulkner and Refuge Center for Counseling co-founder and executive director Amy Alexander spoke. Both women lead agencies that help those dealing with mental health issues and those who threaten or attempt suicide.
“I’m reaching out to you out of desperation,” Faulkner said to faith leaders. “We all need to partner to save some lives. … To say we’re on the verge of a mental health crisis would be an understatement.
“We want to send a message that says, ‘It’s OK to not be OK, but let us help you.’”
Faulkner said a large portion of calls received by the police department this year have been about psychological emergencies. Last year, while other emergency calls decreased with the onset of the pandemic and lockdowns, mental health-related ones increased.
In 2020, there were 118 threats and 47 attempts.
Alexander said in the wake of the pandemic it’s important to discuss mental health at the local level because “every person has suffered at some level this year.” The Refuge Center has seen a 22% increase in requests for mental health services since 2019.
“For all that we were experiencing on the outside this year, we were experiencing it on the inside too,” she said. “As a community, we’ve been through an emotional tornado.”
The licensed marriage and family therapist said the 10 people who died by suicide in Franklin in 2020 were male. The three people who took their own lives the first week of August were male as well.
Additionally, 93% of suicides across Williamson County in 2020 were by males.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, men died by suicide 3.63 times as often as women in 2019. White males accounted for more than 69% of suicide deaths in 2019.
The Suicide Prevention Resource Center writes that men are more likely to die by suicide because they are more likely to use firearms in America, are less likely to access behavioral health, and because of a variety of cultural expectations for men.
Alexander said those trends in men could be overlooked locally because Franklin and Williamson County are known as places of “wealth, achievement and affluence.”
“But no one in our community should struggle alone,” she said.
The Refuge Center now receives anywhere between 50 and 70 referrals a week. Clients now range from 4 years old to 87 years old and are facing things such as eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, grieving loved ones, addiction and dealing with relationship or marriage issues.
Alexander gave faith leaders steps to take:
› Engage in or provide question, persuade, refer suicide prevention training.
› Create mental health Q&A groups and safe spaces to discuss the matter.
› Use any resources provided on findhopefranklin.com, an easy-to-use interface meant to give increased access to services.
› Consider offering religious spaces to support groups.
› Share resources on bulletins and with congregants or members.
› Ensure faith leaders also get support when engaging with the issue.
Ken Moore expounded on question, persuade, refer training as an important measure everyone could take to be more aware and responsive to those battling mental health issues or suicidal thoughts.
The training is intended to give people who aren’t counselors or trained professionals the tools and awareness to assist and listen to a person in crisis until qualified help is accessed, as well as to identify signs of a suicide crisis.
“If you know CPR, you also should know QPR,” he said. “[Mental health issues] are diseases just like diabetes and heart disease. We need to give it the attention that it needs.”
For anyone in the community who would like training, Find Hope Franklin and Franklin Tomorrow are hosting free question, persuade, refer trainings Sept. 14 and Sept. 23. Attendance is capped, but those interested can find more information and register at www.eventbrite. com/e/qpr-training-forcommunity-memberstickets-167637352835.
The Refuge Center for Counseling is also hosting a free conference on growth after a year of challenge, loss and traumatic events called Live Intentionally 2021. If interested, registration information can be found at the refugecenter.networkforgood.com/events/31101-liveintentionally-2021.