World Suicide Prevention Day is September 10th. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK and available to friends and family as well. “We hold a lot of shame around this. We hold a lot of fear. Just remember you are not alone,” said Melissa Marconi-Wentzel on the Morning Interview. (Katherine Rose/KCAW photo)

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“Suicide is not a dirty word,” said Amy Zanuzoski, Executive Director of Sitka Counseling and Prevention Services. “When suicide happens, it affects everybody, whether it’s a neighbor or the grocery store clerk.” Melissa Marconi-Wentzel agreed, adding, “We need to be talking about this more.” Marconi-Wentzel is a clinical practicum student with Neurobehavioral Consultants and seeing clients under supervision.

National Suicide Prevention Week is September 9th to September 15th. Suicide rates are on the rise around the United States. During 1999–2016, the Center for Disease Control reports, suicide rates increased >30% in 25 states. Alaska has the highest suicide rate per capita in the country.

During the Morning Interview, Zanuzoski and Marconi-Wentzel described the warning signs for suicide and how to provide support to a loved one. They emphasized that discussing suicide does not increase a person’s risk of attempting suicide. Rather, conversation is the first step to getting help.

“Remember that first step feels the hardest. It feels the most insurmountable. But once you’ve taken that step, it often feels like it’s more within your grasp,” Marconi-Wentzel said. “You can see light. You can see the possibility of change. When you reach out to somebody who you trust, they can help you on your journey and you’re not alone.”

KCAW reporter Emily Kwong spoke about her mother’s suicide attempt and sharing their family’s story on NPR’s Morning Edition through the oral history project StoryCorps. “I will never regret the day I asked my Mom about it, the relief that can come from being open and having these discussions,” Kwong said.

If you believe someone may be thinking about suicide:

  • Ask them if they are thinking about killing themselves. Listen without judgement and show you care
  • Stay with the person or make sure the person is in a private, secure place with another caring person until you can get further help
  • Remove any objects that could be used in a suicide attempt
  • Call national and local crisis lines
  • If danger for self-harm seems imminent, call 911