Embrace peer-based suicide prevention efforts

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Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for young Iowans, but too often we are reluctant to talk about it.

Sometimes, people fear that discussing suicide will plant the idea in a vulnerable person’s mind. Rest assured, research consistently has shown it does not increase the likelihood of a suicide attempt.

In fact, talking about warning signs and sharing concerns with a person who may be considering suicide is a critical act of prevention.

That’s perhaps especially true when the person reaching out to help has had similar thoughts and experiences in the past.

That’s why we are glad that Tuesday’s symposium on youth suicide drew nearly 250 attendees, and that so much of the discussion focused on building peer-to-peer support networks.

The collaborative brainchild of Tanager, Foundation 2, Hope Walk and YouthPort, “Suicide & Youth: A Symposium of Hope” connected professionals and community members with national experts for discussion on suicide trends and prevention.

“We’re here because we want to connect as a community, and we want to gain understanding on this important topic,” said Mike Hines of Tanager Place.

Suicide was the second-leading cause of death for Iowans ages 15 to 34 from 2001 to 2012, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

In a 2014 Iowa Youth Survey of sixth-, eighth- and 11th-graders, 4 percent of those students said they’d attempted suicide sometime in the previous 12 months. Thirteen percent said they had seriously considered taking their own life.

But stigma and misinformation about suicide continue to persist. As a community, we must do everything we can to remove the stigma that falsely labels suicide attempts as sinful, selfish or attention-grabbing stunts.

Empowering survivors to speak frankly about their past experience can help those struggling with similar thoughts and feelings, advocates said.

“There are things you know when you have lived something,” said Dr. DeQuincy Lezine, president of Prevention Communities. Lezine attempted suicide 21 years ago while he was in college. “What can’t be found elsewhere (in prevention strategies), can be found in lived experience.”

It may never be easy to talk about suicide — particularly among our young people. But it’s vitally important that we do. Literally, a matter of death, or life.

If you are considering suicide or are concerned about someone else, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

• Gazette editorials reflect the consensus opinion of The Gazette Editorial Board. Comments: (319) 398-8469; editorial@thegazette.com

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