End The Stigma: A Conversation About Suicide

More than 40,000 people die by suicide every year, leaving friends and family to navigate the pain associated with such tremendous loss. As neighbors, we have the opportunity to raise awareness and to build community around an issue that impacts the lives of so many. Sharing stories and connecting with others is something we can all do: sharing stories can save a life.

September is Suicide Awareness Month and we caught up with DCMC’s Behavioral Health Coordinator, Barb Johnson-Giese, MSW, LCSW, CSAC, ICS to discuss this important topic.

Q) How do we prevent instances of suicide from occurring within our community?

Barb Johnson-Giese (BJG): First and foremost, community members need to acknowledge that suicide is a community concern, and not just the individual who has suicidal thoughts and attempts or dies by suicide. Although it is slowly changing, stigma surrounding mental illness continues to deter others from seeking services and support.  Educating our community members to recognize signs that a person/loved one may be experiencing thoughts of suicide is key to our community preventing further instances of suicides attempts and deaths.

Q) How is DCMC helping to prevent suicide in Door County? What other organizations does DCMC collaborate with to address this issue?

BJG: DCMC is an active member of the Door County Mental Health Focus Group, which was developed in partnership with Door County Public Health as a result of the Community Needs Assessment which identified a lack of behavioral health services in Door County. This group is charged with providing awareness and education to our community. Other member organizations include Prevent Suicide Door County – Nathan Wilson Coalition, Door County Human Services, JAK’s Place, Door County Partnership for Children and Families, Little Eddie Big Cup, Door County United Way, UW-Extension and others.

Q) What should a person do if they are experiencing suicidal thoughts?

BJG: My wish for anyone who experiences thoughts of suicide is to know they’re not alone, and that there are people who care and want to help. If you or someone you love is having thoughts of suicide, please contact any of the following resources:

  • Door County Mental Health Crisis Line at 920-746-2588
  • Mental Health Text Line: Text “HOPELINE” to 741741 or “APOYO” to 839863 (Spanish)
  • National Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255
  • Contact your primary care provider or another health provider

If you or someone you know is planning to hurt or kill themselves:

  • Go to the nearest Emergency Department, or Call 911

Q) What if I don’t know a person very well but have heard that they are contemplating suicide? What should I do?

BJG: It can be a scary and uncomfortable situation, and there is a myth that talking about suicide with someone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts will increase the likelihood they will kill themselves. However, this is FALSE – talking with someone about suicide actually REDUCES their chance of harming themselves. Take the person seriously, and acknowledge their thoughts of suicide. Offer to listen and help them connect with community resources. Remember that depression and other mental illnesses are similar to heart disease, diabetes, etc. Think about what you would do if you saw someone who was having a heart attack or a stroke, and get them help!

Q) What educational tools are available to our community members to help us understand suicide?

BJG: The best way to prevent suicide is to remain proactive. Help reduce the stigma of mental illness and consider participating in community events to increase awareness and education about mental illness. Prevent Suicide Door County – Nathan Wilson Coalition provides free Question, Persuade, and Refer (QPR) training for all community members to recognize, respond and get help for someone who is thinking of suicide. For further information on QPR training, contact Monica at 920-495-7832. You can also check out their website for additional information.