MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It’s not something any community wants to see: suicide rates are on the rise. What Memphis experts say are some of the warnings and who you should call if you need help.              

Inside the Memphis Crisis Center, the phones ring as volunteers respond to crisis calls in Memphis and Shelby County. Mike Lebonte, the crisis center’s Executive Director, has seen the recent suicide trends in Memphis.

“One of the things that I think is the main tragedy is that suicide is one of those things that is ultimately preventable,” Lebonte said. “I think over the past two years I’ve always said it’s been exhausting for all of us and some people reach that point they feel like whatever those stressors are, they’re pushing them to very edge.”

The State of Tennessee Vital Statistics Office recently reported more than 1,200 suicide deaths in the Volunteer State. 

Sandra Worlow is the director of the employee assistance program at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare in Memphis.

“People suffer in silence. Depression is like the number one factor behind suicide and there are so many people who don’t realize that they have access to help,” Worlow said.

She personally knows about the impact of suicide. Her ex-husband recently took his own life.

“In the following May as the pandemic began, he committed suicide. I found out after the fact that he’d been giving things away that meant something to him. That’s a big sign when people start offering things that mean a lot to them,” Worlow said.

Mental health experts say other warning signs are people isolating themselves or dealing with major life changes such as the loss a job or a loved one.

“We start talking with them and realize in the last six months… six, seven, eight family members and close friends [died]. Whether it be COVID or something else, that’s too much to handle for someone,” Worlow said.

Their advice: If you’re struggling, there’s no shame or stigma in making a phone call or a text which can be a lifeline to hope.

“I want them to know there is a place to turn and as I always say your life is worth at least a phone call,” Lebonte said.

Anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts or another crisis can reach the Memphis Crisis Center at (901)-274-7477.