Hoping to Save a Life, One Pizza Box at a Time

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. - America's favorite food, pizza, with one of America's least favorite topics to talk about, suicide. Combine the two and one Virginia organization hopes they can raise awareness about suicide prevention and mental health, especially during the pandemic.

Throughout the pandemic, we have all ordered a pizza or several dozen. Which is why Kelly Hill Bulin of Eastern Shore Community Services is working with restaurants on Virginia's Eastern Shore to trade in their traditional pizza boxes for boxes with information about mental health and suicide prevention.  

"People follow their favorite pizza restaurants and that was a way to get the message out to them," Bulin says

Throughout the pandemic, pizza sales have steadily increased as people isolate at home. What also increased is the number of suicides, especially in Virginia. 

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, from March to December of 2020, there were over 1,243* suicides in Virginia. The second leading cause of death for those ages 10-34. "The numbers are horrifying with Virginia and across our country," Bulin says. 

For manager Derick Hale of Ocean Deli in Wallops Island, Va., the topic of suicide is personal. "I did five years as a Navy corpsman so you know, mental health was a big issue," Hale says, "the whole time I was in. So when Eastern Shore Community Service Board came to us and asked, you know it wasn't, it was without hesitation."

The Eastern Shore Community Service Board says they're not just stopping with pizza boxes. They hope to branch out to other takeout containers so they can get the word out to as many people as possible on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. 

ESCSB has a 24-hour emergency hotline available at: 757-442-7707.

For restaurants interested in ordering the informational boxes, you are asked to call the ESCSB Office of Prevention Services at 757-442-5388. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a "major effect on our lives. Public health actions, such as social distancing, are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but they can make us feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety." 

The CDC says stress can cause the following: 

  • Feelings of fear, anger, sadness, worry, numbness, or frustration
  • Changes in appetite, energy, desires, and interests
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping or nightmares
  • Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Worsening of mental health conditions
  • Increased use of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances

If you are at increased risk of suicide: 

  • Call 911
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifelineexternal icon: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for English, 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish, or Lifeline Crisis Chatexternal icon.
  • National Domestic Violence Hotlinexternal icone: 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522
  • National Child Abuse Hotlineexternal icon: 1-800-4AChild (1-800-422-4453) or text 1-800-422-4453
  • National Sexual Assault Hotlineexternal icon: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or Online Chat external icon
  • Veteran’s Crisis Lineexternal icon: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Crisis Chatexternal icon or text: 8388255
  • Disaster Distress Helplineexternal icon: CALL or TEXT 1-800-985-5990 (press 2 for Spanish).
  • The Eldercare Locatorexternal icon: 1-800-677-1116 – TTY Instructionsexternal icon

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