Pat McGovern, the suicide prevention coordinator for the Iowa Department of Public Health, says it starts with trying to reduce the stigma of mental illness and reaching out to those who may be in trouble.
“It is okay to ask someone, ‘Are you suicidal?,'” McGovern says. “A lot of times, that gives a sense of relief to the person who is. They may not have even called it suicide in their own mind, but it’s thinking of suicide as an option. It allows them to know that someone does care, that there is someone who notices me, who sees me for whom I am and is concerned enough to have that conversation or to ask.”
This is Suicide Prevention Week. Last year, 392 Iowans died by suicide, making it the 10th leading cause of death in the state. Since many people know someone who has taken their own life, McGovern says the tragedy is a public health issue.
“One risk with suicide is something called contagion, where someone in your social circle or your near community dies by suicide, it puts others at more risk,” McGovern says. “For some reason, we see that, we know about it and it affects us all in different ways.”
Warning signs that someone might be considering suicide include: someone talking about dying, hopelessness or taking their own life, pill hoarding, buying firearms, and dramatic life changes like the loss of a job, a loved one or a move to a new community. Learn more at the website www.yourlifeiowa.org or call toll-free 855-581-8111.
(Thanks to Sarah Boden, Iowa Public Radio)