Too May People Die From Suicide. Here’s How to Help.

numerous community resources available across the Chippewa Valley

Barbara Arnold

If it takes a village to raise a child, then what does it take to prevent that child – or an adult for that matter – from taking their own life?

In our “village” of the Chippewa Valley, mental health has consistently ranked No. 1 on the list of health priorities to focus on based on the most recent Community Health Assessments.

The rate of suicide is on the rise in the Chippewa Valley, Wisconsin, and across the nation. Suicide was the 10th leading cause of death for all ages in the United States in 2016, claiming the lives of almost 45,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Suicide was also listed as the second leading cause of death among children, young people, and young adults between the ages of 10 and 34, and the fourth leading cause of death among adults between the ages of 35 and 54. In Chippewa, Dunn, and Eau Claire counties, 41 people died by suicide in 2016, according to the Division of Public Health of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

As a result of the health assessments and the rising suicide rates, community members pulled together to create the Prevent Suicide Chippewa Valley Coalition, a tri-county initiative. Its purpose is to raise the awareness of the impact suicide has on our residents and prevent suicides from happening here.

The coalition team includes medical professionals from Mayo Clinic Health System, HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s hospitals, and Prevea Health; local treatment facilities; local clinics; public health professionals; and volunteers who have lost friends or family members to suicide. Since the group was founded, it has created and distributed informational and support brochures, business cards, coasters, and posters.

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. National Suicide Prevention Week is Sept. 9-15, with World Suicide Prevention Day on Monday, Sept. 10. Here are things you can do to help prevent suicide and reduce the stigma about mental illness.

Walk

Two walks in Carson Park will bookend Suicide Prevention Week. The Out of the Darkness Walk, sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, will be Saturday, Sept. 8, while the Sharing Hope Walk to Prevent Suicide, sponsored by Prevent Suicide Chippewa Valley Coalition and the National Alliance on Mental Illness Chippewa Valley will be Saturday Sept. 15. For details, see their Facebook pages.

Talk and Listen

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, about one in five adults experience some kind of mental health issue each year. People who are experiencing mental health issues often want to know who to talk to, how to talk about it, and when is the right time and place. As difficult as the topics of mental illness and suicide may be, the more we open up and talk about them, the less stigma these topics will have. Please do so in a gentle, nonjudgmental manner.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis or suicidal thoughts, call 911 or go to a hospital emergency room immediately. To talk to someone anonymously, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) 273-8255, or Northwest Connections at (888) 552-6642, or Text “HOPELINE” to 741741. To talk to someone face-to-face, schedule an appointment with a mental health professional.

Learn

HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s hospitals offer Mental Health First Aid classes for adults interacting with youth, adults, and older adults, as well as for active military members, veterans, and their families. The free eight-hour training course teaches participants how to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illness and substance use disorders. It also provides a five-step action plan to help someone in crisis get to professional help.

“Question, Persuade, Respond” are the three simple steps anyone can learn to help save a life from suicide. QPR training is free and lasts about an hour. Approximately 10,000 people in the Valley – adults and youths, primarily in freshman health classes – have been trained in QPR. Contact the Eau Claire City-County Health Department to get connected to a training.

Know

Know the warning signs of suicide and what to do when someone you know exhibits them.

Warning Signs of Suicide

  • Talking or posting about wanting to die.
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself.
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose.
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
  • Talking about being a burden to others.
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Acting anxious, agitated, or recklessly.
  • Sleeping too little or too much.
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated.
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
  • Displaying extreme mood swings.

What to Do

If someone you know is exhibiting the warning signs of suicide:

  • Do not leave the person alone.
  • Remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs, or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
  • Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 (TALK).
  • Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.

Gather Your Resources

Great Rivers 2-1-1 is a free and confidential community information and referral line available 24/7. Just dial 2-1-1 or (800) 362-8255 to talk to an information or referral specialist for support groups or other individual needs. If you or someone you know is in crisis, you can call the same number to talk to a crisis specialist. Learn more at greatrivers211.org/gr211.

Join A Support Group

Most healthcare organizations provide support groups. The Healing Place at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire offers several, including a Suicide Survivors Group for people who have had a loved one die by suicide, a Parents Grief Group for parents who have lost a child, and a Spouse Loss Group for those who have lost a spouse. The Wellness Shack and Positive Avenues, which are daytime resource centers for those experiencing mental health concerns or homelessness in Eau Claire, also offer support group programs.

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