Squad cars serve as travelling billboards for suicide awareness

BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - Forty-seven people died by suicide in Brown County in 2016. The number of suicides in 2017 is now at 28.

Get Help suicide prevention awareness sign on De Pere police car

These statistics are alarming to community leaders, who have stepped into action with a new initiative to get people help--fast.

Just about anywhere you drive in Brown County, you'll see signs with this message: "Get Help. Make the Call." These signs include the phone number to the local Crisis Center, 920-436-8888.

The signs appear on sides of more than 100 squad cars for the Green Bay Police Department, De Pere Police Department, and Brown County Sheriff's Office.

"We just want to make sure people can have help when they definitely need it," says Capt. Jeremy Muraski, Green Bay Police.

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. In an effort to get more people talking about suicide and the available resources, the Brown County Suicide Coalition came up with the idea to plaster this message on these travelling billboards.

"Just knowing what resources are available to you can really help lower that anxiety to actually seek out the help," says Jeff Strommen, Chair, Brown County Coalition for Suicide Prevention. "If we can lower that anxiety and lower the stigma that's associated with treatment and finding options out there available to people that are struggling with depression, that's really our aim. That's really our goal."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says suicide is the second leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 24.

"That is heartbreaking," says Capt. Muraski. "We have to do more to call attention to it. The other factor is suicide is hard for people to talk about, even the survivors of suicide, they don't want to talk about it to friends, family members, so they're internalizing all of that as well."

The initiative hits home for police who deal with suicide professionally and personally.

Green Bay Police say 133 officers die by suicide nationally every year.

Next week, officers will participate in the Be the Light Awareness Walk as team 133. The team name is in memory of those officers.

"Part of it is education and letting people know that we're losing professionals," says Officer Barb Gerardean, Green Bay Police Department mental health officer. "People that you wouldn't know are struggling, because depression, a lot of people struggle in silence."

They hope this effort breaks the silence.

Action 2 News has compiled a number of suicide resources at wbay.com/links. Click here for helpful websites and phone numbers.

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