HATTIESBURG, MS - Suicide deaths among youths in Mississippi are increasing at an alarming rate. According to the Mississippi Department of Health, 63 deaths were reported in 2016, which is a 62 percent increase in deaths among individuals ages 15-24.
In the Pine Belt, the concern for suicide deaths by youths in the community is growing. From 2011 to 2015, there were 24 suicides among young people.
In 2016, there were 12 suicide deaths.
Debbie Sanford, the chief officer for Behavioral Health at Pine Grove Treatment Center, said most all schools in the Pine Belt have experienced very serious suicide attempts.
"We have to remember, these statistics don't just represents a number. It's a person, a family and friends, deeply impacted by this loss of life," Sanford said.
Suicide is the third-leading cause of death across the county for youths ages 10 to 14-years-old. It is the second leading cause of death for 15 to 34-year-olds.
"There's all kinds of problems," Sanford said. "Some have mental illness, some are depressed, they have anxiety. Maybe they are using substances they shouldn't be. There is bullying. There are a lot of things that affect teenagers today."
Pine Grove invited Kevin Hines to speak at the Thad Cochran Center on the campus of The University of Southern Mississippi Thursday evening. Hines is a brain/mental health advocate and shared his struggles and story of survival.
Hines was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 19-years-old. He attempted to take his life by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, two years after his diagnosis.
"When I was on that bridge, looking down over the water, I lost my faith for that moment," Hines said. "The millisecond I hit free fall, I had an instantaneous regret for my actions and all I wanted to do was live."
Hines said he believed full force that what happened to him was a miracle.
"In that water, struggling to stay afloat, literally the only thing I had control over was prayer," Hines said. "I said to myself, 'God please save me. I don't want to die, I made a mistake.'"
Hines is one of only 34 to survive the fall from the Golden Gate Bridge. He is the only Golden Gate Bridge jump survivor to regain full physical mobility and share his story of living mentally healthy.
Hines said he lives with chronic suicidal thoughts everyday. He shared a message to listeners to consider that "today is not tomorrow."
"If you are struggling with this right now and you believe you are alone, nobody is alone," Hines said.
If you, a family member or friend is dealing with depression, suicidal thoughts or just needs someone to talk to, there are a number of resources available.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is staffed with certified counselors 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.