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KELLY BREVIG COLUMN: There is hope, and we all can make a difference

Kelly Brevig

When a stone is thrown into the water, the ripples are far and wide. As far as the eye can see, there is a movement where all was once still. Small creases stretch out far beyond the sunken stone, the impact is great. Whereas a simple rock creates ripples, death by suicide is more like a boulder creating seismic waves. Family, friends, classmates, co-workers, students, neighbors, church-goers, grocery clerks, friends of friends, celebrities, schools, cities, and states are all affected. The death transposes the grief of one onto the shoulders of many others. The tsunami of emotions that ensues is massive, especially at the epicenter of the tragedy. Because of the stigma associated with suicide, the after effect can often be silent, although undoubtedly moved. Nothing will be the same.

There may be resistance in moving forward, as grief is wrapped up in emotions that crash like waves. There may be guilt, anger, resentment, shame, sadness, fear, and emptiness. There may be days of inner retreat and isolation, days where laughter returns, and all too quickly is stifled with feelings of guilt for being happy. There may be friends who understand and remain by the side and those who withdraw not knowing what to say. Sometimes the days are OK, and without warning are again swallowed up with grief. This is a pain like no other. This is what goes unsaid as the silent motion ripples through a family and community.

To all those who have faced the biggest impact, please know you are not alone. Communities have been gathering for many years to study and address the impact of suicide. Thanks to national organizations such as the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the National Alliance for Mental Illness, the Department of Health and many, many others, death by suicide is a priority in education and funding. Local entities are addressing contributing stressors that can influence suicide as well as putting in place protective factors in education. Programs like the Suicide Prevention Program through Evergreen Youth and Family Services have been funded for years. Coalitions like the Headwaters Alliance for Suicide Prevention have been gathering. Gatekeeper training in schools are taught not only to instructors but to students as well. Lifeline supports are being utilized through the Crisis Text Line (text "MN" to 741741) and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800) -273-8255). The local Mobile Crisis Line—(800) 422-0045—responds to those experiencing a mental health crisis has seen a significant increase in phone calls, arguably evidence that people are reaching out for help more than ever before.

The word "prevention" can seem bitter to any loss survivor, and for good reason; the loss they feel is great. For those of us feeling the ripples from the shore, this is how we show support. This is our way of reaching out and saying that even one death by suicide is one too many. We will continue to train, to educate, to inform, rally, and fight. We are not in this alone. The community-based, non-profit, Evergreen Youth and Family services provides suicide prevention and education to hundreds of students and adults in Beltrami County. The Bemidji Area Service Collaborative has provided partial grant funding for this programming. The Minnesota Department of Health recently granted Evergreen $20,000 per year for the next four years to continue its prevention efforts in our area. MDH also provides guidance and leadership. The state Legislature has also voted on additional funding for mental health services and suicide prevention in Minnesota. People are listening. The message is being heard. There is hope, and we can make a difference.

You can help, too. A local event, the 13th Annual Run/Walk/Skate for Suicide Prevention is set for Saturday, September 7, 2019. Registration is open, and teams are being formed. Go to www.bemidjirunwalkskate.org to find out more. This awareness event is also a fundraiser to augment services provided in our community. Together, we can save lives.

Kelly Brevig is Suicide Educational Services Coordinator with Evergreen Youth and Family Services.