Is it suicide to smoke, to drive recklessly, to overeat, to indulge in alcohol, to leap over tall buildings, or to swim with the sharks? I am not trying to be ‘flippant’ about it but we need to start talking about suicide.

I attend a workshop through Lakes & Pines CAC in Mora entitled “Mental Health First Aid” presented by Fairview Health. I am now trained to provide initial help to people experiencing problems such as depression, anxiety disorders, psychosis and substance use disorders.

At this training, suicide was one of the topics discussed in great length. There was role playing and myth-busting conversation. Suicide has also been a topic of the Aitkin County Health and Human Services Commission (H&HS). We have made it a goal to educate the public and get people  talking about it without anguish.

Since I have been talking to folks about suicide, I have honestly been amazed at how many have thought about taking their own life or know someone that has attempted or succeeded.

In June, the H&HS Commission had a suicide workshop under the direction of Mary, a Certified Gatekeeper Instructor with QPR Institute. We did some role playing and what seemed to be a simple task of asking your partner, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” Became a very difficult and emotional question for some.

Watch for signs that would indicate thoughts or plans to commit suicide. Are they giving away personal property or doing unusual activity like reaching out to someone that they have not communicated with in a long time? Have they suddenly become like their “old” self? A boy I had once shaved my legs for was my first experience with suicide. I was off in college when I learned that he shot himself in the abdomen. He did not survive. This was in the 1970s.

If you are concerned about someone, or you yourself are in emotional pain, reach out.

Aitkin County Health and Human Services is an excellent resource.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s number is: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

You can always dial 911. The dispatcher on duty will get you in touch with medical help.

Penny Olson is the McGregor librarian. She’s a member of the McGregor City Council, the  fire department, the ambulance service and is an active community member.

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