Talking about suicide saves lives

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Becci Reedus, guest columnist

As we near the end of National Mental Health Month, it is so important to bring suicide into this conversation. Suicide is part of our nation’s mental health crisis. The numbers are climbing and it’s impossible to have a conversation about mental health without also talking about suicide.

The work we do every day at The Crisis Center of Johnson County to combat suicide is sometimes overlooked. People often fail to talk about suicide for fear talking about it will cause it. Unfortunately, this silence on suicide has only helped to increase the stigma surrounding it. I want to talk about it today, though. I want to talk about how each and every one of us can help prevent suicide.

Over the years, The Crisis Center of Johnson County has grown from a phone line operated by a handful of University of Iowa students to a round-the-clock, multiplatform resource for those who need a non-judgmental, caring person to connect with. Not only do we offer our 24-hour crisis phone line, we have also added chat and text over the past decade. The number of people we talk to every day has grown exponentially over the years. We save lives every single day.

A few years ago, we brought in a speaker to talk about his experience with suicide. Kevin Hines had jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge and survived. He told us that if one person had asked if he was ok, he wouldn’t have done it. Nobody asked him. After Kevin finished speaking, I went to the restroom and there was a young woman sitting on the floor, sobbing. I knew I couldn’t leave without asking her if she was ok. So I asked. She wasn’t ok and she needed someone to talk to. I brought in Keri Neblett, our Director of Crisis Intervention Services. Ultimately, Keri and Kevin Hines, himself, talked with the young woman. I know what could have happened to her if I hadn’t asked her that simple question: Are you ok?

It’s time to talk about suicide. The only way we will reduce the stigma surrounding this absolutely preventable tragedy is to talk about it. We have to talk to each other, to our kids, to our grandparents, to our friends. We have to talk about it in a compassionate way and understand the reason behind it. It’s not a selfish act that happens because of a single event. It’s the act of someone who needs help. The only way we can help them is if we stop being afraid to reach out. Don’t be afraid to ask someone if they’re ok.

If you are not ok, we are here to help. Our 24-hour crisis line is always open at (319) 351-0140 or you can visit our website at www.jccrisiscenter.org. We are here. Always. You are never alone.

• Becci Reedus is executive director of The Crisis Center in Iowa City.

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