Klump fund targets suicide awareness for farmers
BERLIN, Md. — “Nobody wants to talk about suicide. Not the prevention part of it or the aftermath part of it,” says Ron Pilling, secretary/treasurer of the Jesse Klump Memorial Fund, a suicide prevention group founded in memory of a Girdletree, Md. resident who killed himself at age 17 in 2009.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. and the seventh leading cause of death for men.
The suicide rate for white males is twice as high as for black men and 10 times as high as for white women.
Suicide is a serious problem in rural America. In 2019 Johns Hopkins University researchers found rural suicide rates in Maryland are 35 percent above the statewide average.
From 2005 through 2015, nearly half of rural counties in Maryland saw suicide rates increase by 30 percent or more, according to the Worcester County Health Department.
The Jesse Klump Memorial Fund launched the Save Shore Farmer initiative with a grant from the Maryland Agriculture Educational Resource Development Assistance Fund, a part of the Rural Maryland Council.
Its website is saveashorefarmer.org.
Pilling acknowledged the self-reliance of farmers and the stigma of suicide and says, “We were not deluding ourselves that we were going to get farmers to come out to the public workshops we normally teach about suicide prevention.
“We determined early on that our real audience was probably going to be farm spouses, farm children, the teller at the local bank, the guy who works for the local seedsman or for a tractor supply company,” Pilling says. “We decided to craft this program around public outreach and education and not be upset if we couldn’t go directly to farmers and say, ‘come to our suicide workshop.’”
Save a Shore Farmer focuses on suicide prevention through education and publicizing information about available resources says Pilling.
“Our goal is to teach everybody the risk factors and warning signs that might lead someone to make an attempt on their own life,” Pilling says. And then teach the simple steps that virtually anybody can take.
“Like CPR, when you don’t have to be a cardiologist to keep someone safe until the ambulance arrives, you don’t have to be a psychiatrist to practice suicide prevention first aid and keep someone safe until a trained mental health care professional can intervene.”
For more than a decade, the Klump Fund has run a monthly suicide griever support meeting.
Fund President Kim Klump is a certified grief counselor who has been trained by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Pilling reports the support group is especially important because, he says, the CDC has found that individuals who have lost a close relative or friend to suicide have “greatly increased” odds of making an attempt on their own lives.
The Klump Fund has distributed its written materials, public service announcements and related information for use by other organizations throughout Maryland and beyond which can use the information to create their own locally focused programs.
It assisted the University of Minnesota, which had a contract with USDA to prepare a “tool kit” for first responders and mental health care providers to assess and deal with suicide in the farm community.
“Demand for what we do has grown. Interest has grown way beyond anything we anticipated,” says Pilling.
“We now support “Signs of Suicide” in middle schools in Worcester County. We do afterschool programs at schools and the demand for that has grown dramatically as well,” Pilling says.
One reason for the demand, the Klump Fund notes, is that between 1950 and 2010, the rate of suicide for children ages 5 to 14 increased by 300 percent.
Also, the rate of suicide among young people age 15 to 24 more than doubled in the period.
Measuring success of suicide prevention efforts is difficult, Pilling says. “We measure our success by response to our website after our billboards go up and after we do 30-second public service announcements.
“Last year, we did about 1,400 public service announcements. This year we are going to do 1,880, 30-second public service spots on Mediacom and Comcast between Feb. 24 and June 1,” Pilling says.
He can see an immediate increase in visits to saveashorefarmer.org almost as soon as the announcements are aired.
In addition, the Klump Fund offers suicide prevention information at “every conceivable event we can find” including the Maryland Farm Bureau Convention, Blessing of the Combines and other meetings and events.
Brochures are available at 36 locations on the Eastern Shore.
“We will take our one-hour long suicide prevention Power Point, which we customize, anywhere we’re invited at no charge,” he says.
He stresses, “There is no shame in asking for help. If you are suicidal, reach out. There are resources available.”
For more information on the Klump Fund, visit www.jessespaddle.org.
Additional information about suicide prevention is available on the website of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, afsp.org.
1-800-634-5021 410-822-3965 Fax- 410-822-5068
P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925