ORONO, Maine (NEWS CENTER) – Police in Orono stepped out in front of an issue that needs be out in the open this week: suicide awareness.
The Department posted a photo to their Facebook page from the scene of one of three separate calls for attempted suicides in the town Saturday night.
Sergeant Cameron Barrieau took the photo. He said while the night was unexpected, it made them realize they needed to talk about the issue.
"We hear it all the time: ‘Oh it's the small town of Orono. Nothing really happens in Orono,’” he said. “Well it does happen in Orono. It's just hidden and people don't like to talk about it."
At just 25, Barrieau said he has a personal connection—a friend attempted suicide in high school. Fortunately, authorities were able to help.
“The police force is definitely a protective factor in a community," Dr. Doug Johnson a psychologist and director of the University of Maine Counseling Center said.
Johnson said the center works to combat suicide each and every day, starting with asking the question: Have you ever thought of taking your own life?
“It was a question that no one was comfortable asking primarily because they thought it would plant the idea in someone's mind,” he said. “Well it doesn't and research actually suggests asking the question can lower the risk of suicide."
That is because Johnson said 80 percent of those who take their own life never sought help.
It is officers like Barrieau who are trained in how to ask the question in order to save lives. He is one of more than 2,000 officers across the state who received what is known as Crisis Intervention Team training for mental health through the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
"We don't have to rush in and take them right to the hospital, we have time to talk them, to deescalate and figure out just what's going on,” he said.
Barrieau and the Department hope that by standing up, others realize help is available right in their own communities.
"This is happening. This is an issue. This should be addresses and we want people to reach out to help," Barrieau said.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, you can always reach out to your local police or call the Maine Suicide Hotline at 1-888-568-1112. You are not alone.
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