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KELLY BREVIG COLUMN: ‘Prevention’ and ‘hope’ are key words in suicide conversation

Kelly Brevig

Suicide is not a word that is thrown around lightly. For some, it conjures up feelings of discomfort and squeamishness. Some folks may say the word fast, in hushed tones when and if it is uttered at all. Some may be afraid that saying the word out loud may incite a loved one to consider ending their life. For some, the word is a haunting memory of a loved one lost. For hundreds of people in Bemidji and surrounding areas, the word “suicide” is partnered with the words “prevention” and “hope.”

The 11th annual Run/Walk/Skate for Suicide Prevention was the home of such hope on Saturday. Hundreds of community members gathered to support loss survivors, to stamp out the stigma of mental illness, and to promote the prevention of suicide. These people know that by talking about the issues surrounding mental health, about untreated depression, and unlocking codes of silence that surround the darkest hours a person may face, there can be a change in our community. These people are the ones that collected pledges, donned a t-shirt, and walked, ran or skated to support the prevention of suicide. Volunteers swarmed this event to give hope to our community and be a force for prevention and change.

We can take a word as ugly as “suicide” and turn it into something with purpose when we attach the word “prevention” next to it. We can learn to have conversations that matter, to ask difficult questions, and learn how to respond when someone is feeling hopeless. Prevention is a word that brings light to the darkness and gives meaning to pain. As I embark on a new journey of educating about suicide prevention, I get to explore many facets that often go unnoticed. I hope that as I learn, I can take you as the reader along with me on this journey. What I have learned so far is that suicide loss survivors (those that have a loved one that died by suicide) can heal, remember, and not be afraid to tell their story. They can rebuild after loss and find hope and strength. I have also learned that the Minnesota Department of Health, in particular, has a vested interest in ending suicide. MDH has training, curriculums, and powerful tools for students, teachers, and to anyone who wants them. These tools help us use the right language, practice asking the question directly, “Are you feeling suicidal?” and teach us who to call and when.

Bemidji has incredible resources, and there are many ways to find support. The mobile crisis team in Bemidji is a great place to start in a mental health crisis. They can be dispatched by calling “211 First Call for Help.” Staffed by Upper Mississippi Mental Health, the crisis teams can go directly to one’s home to assess a situation, triage a crisis, and answer questions that may arise. Another resource is the “Gathering of Hearts” support group for suicide loss survivors. A free closed group for those who wish to find healing along their journey will begin in October. It will last six to eight weeks and be a safe place to unpack grief and work through the loss of the suicide of a loved one. If interested in this group, please call Kelly Brevig at Evergreen Youth and Family Services at (218) 441-4565. To quote the Run/Walk/Skate that has been ongoing for the last eleven years, “Each step forward is Hope.” Here’s to hope in our community.

Kelly Brevig is Suicide Educational Services Coordinator for Evergreen Youth & Family Services, Inc.