Duxbury ‘tragic situation’ shines light on 988 suicide prevention hotline, noticing warning signs: ‘It’s OK to ask for help’


Local suicide prevention advocates are stressing the importance of the 988 suicide prevention hotline and for loved ones and others to look out for warning signs after a Duxbury mother allegedly killed her children and tried to take her own life.

988 was recently designated as the new three-digit dialing code that will route callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

“Anybody who is thinking of suicide or is struggling with mental health issues or anything else needs to reach out for help,” Debbie Helms, director of the Samaritans of Merrimack Valley, told the Herald on Wednesday. “And 988 now gives us another option besides our trained crisis counselors.

“It’s a tragic situation, a horrible situation, and we want people to know there are resources out there,” Helms added. “It’s OK to ask for help.”

988 is not just for the person who is in crisis, said Leeann Sherman, CEO of the American Association of Suicidology. People who know the struggling individual — whether it’s a loved one, friend, neighbor or colleague — should reach out to 988 if they’re concerned about the person.

“They may have noticed something about this individual, and the 988 crisis line is something they could call to get local resources for that individual,” Sherman said. “The crisis center can steer them in the right direction.”

Some warning signs include major changes in a person’s habits, isolation from loved ones, and a loss of interest in doing things they love.

“Asking people ‘how are you?’ and telling them you’re concerned about them can be helpful,” said Kathleen Marchi, CEO and president of Samaritans Inc.

In addition to the Duxbury family, many people have been thinking of the first responders who were at the scene Tuesday night.

“This tragedy in Duxbury is unimaginable,” the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts tweeted. “Our thoughts and prayers are with friends and family of the victims. Peer support resources are available to our members who responded last night. If you need assistance, reach out to your Local President or DVP. Help is available.”

Samaritans works to prevent suicide and support those who have lost someone to suicide. Each year, more than 300 volunteers answer more than 80,000 calls, texts, and chats on its 24/7 Helpline.

Samaritans is now answering calls going to 988. Also, Hey Sam is a peer-to-peer texting service for people up to 24 years old. The texting number is 439-726.

For more information, visit samaritanshope.org.

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