In 2011, a middle school girl was devastated by a classmate’s suicide. That summer, she and her mom had an idea of involving community members in pledging to speak out if they were experiencing self-harming thoughts or noticed family or friends harming themselves. The community rallied around the new organization, Speak Out Against Suicide.
This year is Speak Out Against Suicide’s 10th anniversary. The privately funded nonprofit, located in Camanche, Iowa, holds a spring gala and a “Breaking the Silence” walk in the fall. Funding is used in Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois for prevention and to create awareness of suicide.
Our mission is to eliminate the stigma of suicide and increase awareness for providing a safe environment where people know that they are not alone and can feel free to ask for help.
We partner with several organizations to bridge the gap between mental health, addiction, abuse, trauma and other things that hold hands with suicide.
In 2020, the Centers for Disease Control said every 11 minutes someone dies by suicide: 1.2 million attempted it, 3.2 million had a plan, and 12.2 million people thought about suicide. It is among the top 10 leading causes of deaths in the United States and second leading cause of those age 10-34.
Signs of suicidal thinking include:
FEELINGS: Sad, lonely, hopeless, in pain, moody, irritable, increased depression.
ACTION: Prior suicide attempt, pushing away friends and family, giving away possessions, using alcohol and drugs, making or researching suicide plans, engaging in risky behavior, making art or writing about death, saying goodbye.
CHANGES: In school performance, appearance or hygiene, or personality — just not themselves.
THREATS: Saying they are going to kill themselves, flippant comments about ending their life, saying goodbye.
SITUATIONS: Has the person had a crisis or trigger (stress) situation, especially in the past couple of weeks?
If you suspect someone is struggling with suicidal thoughts:
Don’t try to talk the person out of their feelings or express shock.
Don’t judge. Do not say: “Things could be worse,” or “That’s a stupid thing to say, you have so much to live for.”
Let them know that you care and want to help.
Ask, “Are you thinking about suicide?” It will show that you care, and that you are not afraid to talk to them about it. It will make them feel safe and more likely to open up for help. If they answer “yes,” ask “Have you thought about how you are going to do it?” “When? Where? How?” And ask them if they have access to weapons or other means of harming themselves. •
The National Suicide Crisis Hotline is 1-800-273-8255 or text 741741.
The Eastern Iowa Crisis Line is 1-844-430-0375.
Shawn Felts is outreach coordinator for Speak Out Against Suicide. Contact her at (563) 259-8255.