On average, someone dies by suicide in Nebraska every 1 1/2 days. Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death overall in Nebraska.
In the 10-14 age group, it is the first leading cause of death, according to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, and according to the Gage County Attorney’s office, there were 11 successful suicides in Gage County last year alone. Jefferson County recorded three.
Prevention efforts and survivor care in the area focus on decreasing the devastating effects of suicide.
Question, Persuade and Refer (QPR)
QPR is an hour-long training that is intended to offer hope through positive action. The certified instructor begins with dispelling myths surrounding suicide, including the idea that no one can stop a suicide and that it is inevitable. In reality, if people in crisis get the help they need, there is a possibility that they will never be suicidal again, according to the QPR Institute.
During the training, groups are led through the process of asking important questions such as “Are you thinking of killing yourself?” Trainees also learn about persuading the person to seek help and how to go about referring them to appropriate resources.
Trainings are held regularly in schools, workplaces and the community. For more information, or to schedule a group training, contact Christina Lyons at email@example.com or 402-806-7783.
In 1998, high school principal Greg Hudnall was asked to identify the body of a 14-year-old boy who had taken his life in the public park next to his high school. After that experience, Hudnall made a commitment to do everything he could to help prevent suicide in his school district of 14,000 students in Utah.
Hope Squads stand for “Promoting Hope and Student Empowerment.” It is a school-based peer-to-peer program developed by Hudnall.
Peer-to-peer training is an integral component of many youth suicide-prevention programs. It trains the students to recognize warning signs in depressed or suicidal peers, and report those signs to an adult.
Peers are considered to be the most effective receptors of warning signs, because they spend so much time together and are able to recognize when someone is acting differently. Evidence-based research shows that seven out of 10 adolescents experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts will confide in a friend or trusted peer before approaching an adult.
Beatrice Middle School recently adopted the program and is implementing it during this school year. Beatrice High School is planning to begin the program in the fall of 2018.
Angie Vogel and Amy Randal, guidance counselors at Beatrice Middle School, say they felt encouraged by the 24 students who were selected by their peers and by parent’s eagerness to become involved.
Members of the advisory council state that “helping kids” and “changing the climate of the school” are why they became involved.
Suicide Survivors of Gage County and the Surrounding Area
In Gage County, Megan Erickson started a Facebook page and support group for those who have attempted suicide.
On the Facebook page, Erickson wrote, “I am hoping this group will be beneficial to our community and is able to help other people that are standing where I have once stood as well. I believe one of the most helpful things anyone can do is to be there for others in the darkest of hours and I hope that this page and group can bring some light and comfort to anyone who needs it.”
The support group meets on most third Thursdays of each month at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Beatrice at 7 p.m. It is open to the public.
Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors was designed to reduce suicide bereavement distress and promote growth. Team members provide supportive services that are specific to the individuals who are impacted directly by suicide, usually within two to 48 hours after referral from local law enforcement if survivors are willing.
Teams are usually composed of individuals who have been bereaved by suicide loss and trained a mental health clinician.
Terri Marti, Lancaster County LOSS Team coordinator, said she wished she would have had someone to talk to when her father died by suicide.
“I felt very alone,” she recalled.
Dr. Don Belau, LOSS Team clinical director, wants the message to be one of hope and compassion. He noted that “survivors who receive a LOSS Team visit are more apt to seek out counseling, usually within 45-75 days. On average, people who do not receive immediate resources wait 4 1/2 years to get help."
Efforts are underway to develop a Southeast Nebraska LOSS Team. Contact Scott Stemper with Region V Prevention Systems at 402-441-4346 for more information.
Out of the Darkness
Melissa Carlson of Beatrice started organizing the Out of the Darkness walk in the fall 2007 after losing of her father to suicide in May of 2007.
“I didn’t want anyone else to go through that," she said.
Unfortunately, Melissa would endure the loss of a parent by suicide again in May of 2009 when she lost her mother to suicide.
Carlson stated the numbers of people in attendance have grown some over the years, but usually around 150 people attend.
The faces have changed some,” she said.
Survivors walk to honor their loved ones and support others. Of the funds raised, 50 percent goes back to the community for billboards and educational materials to raise awareness about suicide. Carlson also does outreach to survivors offering support.
The Out of the Darkness Walk will be held on Saturday, Sept. 15 at Chatauqua Park in Beatrice.
For more information, contact Melissa Carlson at 402-239-0787.