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Billboard in Lawrence highlights prevalence of suicide in Mass., promotes help line resources

A billboard in Lawrence highlights the prevalence of suicide in Massachusetts. Eric Haynes

A new billboard erected in Lawrence over the holiday season is calling attention to suicide help line resources for those who may need assistance.

It is accompanied by a digital campaign on social media platforms that is aimed at connecting people in crisis to resources.

The Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention, along with the Family Services of Merrimack Valley and one of its programs, Samaritans of Merrimack Valley, announced the campaign last month. The groups said they wanted to bring “a powerful message of hope for residents.”

“In Massachusetts, suicide claims nearly a dozen lives per week, far more than motor vehicle deaths and homicides, yet it is rarely discussed in public,” Jennifer Kelliher, executive director of the Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention, said in a statement. “We hope this campaign will result in an increase in attention to the issue, and additional calls that lead to help, healing, and resilience.”

The billboard, which will be up until mid-January, stands at the corner of Amesbury and Canal streets, near the Lawrence District Court and Lawrence Medical Center. It features 12 faces that represent the different demographics of those affected by suicide.


The bottom of the billboard says: “We care. We listen. Call us.” and lists the help line number next to it.

“The holidays can be especially difficult for those experiencing suicidal thoughts, and that’s why our message of hope and help is so important right now,” said Debbie Helms, director of Samaritans of Merrimack Valley. “Our new campaign features the faces of people who are affected by suicide — everyone.”

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 24, after unintentional injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The most recent national data from 2016 show that 638 people died by suicide in Massachusetts. Rates are rising in the state and across the country, Kelliher said.


Massachusetts spends the most per capita on suicide prevention, including counseling programs and public health organizations, Kelliher said. She added that the state has one of the lowest suicide rates in the United States.

But the state is still seeing “a disturbing trend,” Kelliher said.

“Always take it seriously,” she said of any friend or family member who may be showing signs of suicidal thoughts. “It’s always better to be concerned than to be wrong. . . . We want to spread the message that suicide is preventable, but prevention depends on families and friends.”

Kelliher said people should make sure those who are showing signs of having suicidal thoughts have help line numbers. People should also call 911 if they know someone who is in imminent danger of harming themselves or others, she said.

For those seeking help, call the Samaritans statewide crisis help line, 877-870-4673; and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 800-273-TALK (8255) (veterans press 1).

Katie Camero can be reached at katie.camero@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @camerokt_.