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Bringing suicide out of the darkness

Groups across U.P. work to raise awareness of mental health issues

September 7, 2010
By DAN?WEINGARTEN Journal News Editor

MARQUETTE -Calls to Dial Help, an outreach center based in Houghton but serving the entire Upper Peninsula, have surged over the past year. Some of those calls are from people contemplating taking their own lives.

It's a shocking statistic, symptomatic of larger problems -perhaps economic or social -but there may be a positive side, according to Kevin Weir, a community education specialist with Dial Help. Perhaps, he said, more people are looking for help.

"Our calls have gone up 70 percent in the past 12 months. Why? I?can speculate,"?he said. "I'm not sure there are a lot more suicidal persons out there. But the stigma against talking about the problem is breaking down. That's my gut feeling."

Article Photos

Participants carry a banner at the start of last year’s Out of the Darkness Community Walk. This year’s event is set for Sept. 18. (Journal file photo)

Dial Help is on the front lines of the effort to fight suicide regionally. But during this week, observed nationally as Suicide Prevention Week, and in the weeks to come, more than a half dozen U.P. organizations are working toward the goals of prevention and raising awareness. They've scheduled events and programs over the next several months.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention someone in the U.S. dies from suicide every 15 minutes, and a suicide attempt is made every single minute of every day. Regionally, a recent Michigan Department of Education Survey released findings for several Upper Peninsula Counties. The survey showed among 2009-10 Houghton Ninth- grade respondents, 19.7 percent had seriously considered attempting suicide in the last 12 months, and 7.1 percent attempted suicide one or more times in the last 12 months. But experts believe many suicides can be prevented through mental health treatment.

"Eighty to 90 percent of those who get treatment respond to treatment," Weir said.

Fact Box


Thursday -Assessing & Managing Suicide Risk Training hosted by Copper Country Mental Health Houghton

Friday Assessing & Managing Suicide Risk Training - Ironwood

Saturday - End the Silence Walk - Escanaba

Sept. 18 - Out of the Darkness Walk - Marquette

Sept. 18 - Out of the Darkness Walk - Iron Mountain

Sept. 28-29 - Mental Health First Aid presented by the NorthCare Network - Marquette

Oct. 11 - Mental Health First Aid presented by the NorthCare Network - Houghton

Nov. 20 - National Survivor's of Suicide Day Healing Conference hosted by Dial Help - Houghton


If you or someone you know may be contemplating suicide or struggling with an emotional crisis, help is available by calling the National Suicide Lifeline at 800-273-TALK or 800-562-7622

Don't feel like talking? Crisis intervention is available via instant message at

But they have to get treatment. Suicide is an uncomfortable topic for most people. It's rarely discussed. When the discussions do happen, it's often after the fact. Communities across the U.P. are banding together to host events to change this. An Escanaba taskforce wants to "End the Silence," and organizations in Iron Mountain and Marquette want to bring the conversation "Out of the Darkness." These groups are hosting community walks to promote suicide prevention and awareness.

The Marquette walk is set for Sept. 18 at the Marquette Commons. Registration is at 9 a.m., with the walk at 10 a.m.

"This is our third year," said organizer Allison Luff of Marquette, "Basically, we want to bring awareness of how mental illness is so important to recognize. We want to educate the public about depression, that it's an important issue. Suicide has such a stigma attached. People just don't want to talk about it."

Last year the event drew about 90 walkers. Luff said this year's goal is to have more participants and to raise $5,000 for suicide prevention. Participants can contribute at the walk or give online at

The vast majority of people who commit suicide are suffering from a mental illness at the time. But recovery from mental illness is possible - a fact the NorthCare Network, consisting of the five U.P. Community Mental Health Agencies, has been driving home by bringing Mental Health First Aid training sessions to the U.P.

These sessions teach laypeople how to help those suffering from an emotional crisis until professional help can take over.

Although prevention is key, it is also essential to support and assist those that are left behind. Surviving family members and friends are often left with questions or feelings of guilt. Helping survivors of suicide cope, heal and create peace with the questions is the focus of National Survivors of Suicide Day on Nov. 20. Dial Help will host the 2nd Annual National Survivors of Suicide Day Healing Conference on November 20th. This is a free conference and the only one of its kind in the Upper Peninsula, and only the 2nd scheduled conference in Michigan. The conference will be held at Dial Help Community Support and Outreach Center in Houghton.

For more information on any of the events, visit or call Dial Help at 800-562-7622.



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