The second-annual Longball22 Classic, held July 22 at Grand Falls Casino & Resort in Larchwood, Iowa, was another successful, meaningful gathering to raise awareness and funds for student mental health. This event honors Ben Longley, a college student who died by suicide in 2020.
This year, 37 teams of four competed in the tournament, more than 250 guests were in attendance, and together, we raised over $80,000 for peer-led student mental health and suicide prevention programming. Thanks to an anonymous match partway through the evening, we surpassed our fundraising goal and are able to make a major impact in our communities.
With over 100 silent auction items donated from local businesses and individuals, a live performance by Nashville singer/songwriter Blessing Offor, and a sold-out tournament of 150 golfers, the outpouring of community, love, and resilience was certainly felt at this year’s Classic.
Taneeza Islam, Executive Director of South Dakota Voices for Peace, a Sioux Falls-based nonprofit with an aim to dismantle bigotry and racism targeting refugee, immigrant, and Muslim communities, is on the show to talk about how SDVFP’s services help to support our work of prevention, intervention, and postvention of suicide, among a population at great risk, especially in South Dakota. Using the CDC’s seven strategies for preventing suicide found in their technical package for suicide prevention, to guide our work, we asked Taneeza to think through the work that SDVFP does to strengthen economic supports for the communities she serves and how we can do more by working together, rather than in silos.
Lindsey McCarthy, Executive Director of Southern Plains Behavioral Health Services, a South Dakota-based agency fulfilling social and emotional health needs in the community. Using the CDC’s seven strategies for preventing suicide found in their technical package for suicide prevention to guide our work, we asked Lindsey how SPBHS is utilizing these same strategies in their services, which include psychiatric care, counseling, case management, systems of care, community education, crisis intervention and emergency services, trauma support, and so much more.
To learn more about the work that Lost&Found is doing to prevent suicide among youth and young adults, go to resilienttoday.org. To learn more about the work that Southern Plains Behavioral Health Services is doing to strengthen access and delivery of suicide care in South Dakota, go to spbhs.net. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube (@resilienttoday).
SIOUX FALLS, SD — A South Dakotan’s story of resilience in the face of mental health challenges or suicide will be shared each day of September, which is National Suicide Prevention Month, as part of a project called “30 Days, 30 Stories: Let’s #DoMore to Prevent Suicide.”
The project is sponsored by the suicide prevention organization Lost&Found, in partnership with the South Dakota Humanities Council and 4Front Studios.
The stories are told by 30 South Dakotans (or people whose stories are connected to South Dakota). They include written stories, photos, and a short video that are released on the project website, 30stories.org, as well as shared on social media. Four episodes of the Great Minds with Lost&Found podcast will also be released in September featuring five of the storytellers. One episode with special guest and TikTok influencer Gabe Dannenbring will be recorded live on Sept. 8 at Severance Brewing in Sioux Falls.
Dannenbring is one of several storytellers this year with names that might be familiar to South Dakotans. Their stories about mental health, however, may be known to just a few.
“The 30 Stories campaign brings much needed awareness and resources for mental health and suicide prevention to the public eye at a time when suicide death is impacting youth and young adults in larger numbers than ever before,” said Erik Muckey, Executive Director/CEO of Lost&Found. “These courageous South Dakotans choosing to share their struggles and the resources that helped them will make a difference not just in one life, but thousands here in South Dakota and beyond.”
The project has three main goals:
Increase awareness of mental health challenges all around us, as this can reduce the stigma of mental illness and seeking help.
Empower people to share their stories. This includes the people who are featured here, but also those who read and identify with these stories and may find courage to tell their own. Storytelling involves deciding what details matter (and which don’t), and finding meaning in a series of events. This process can be healing in itself.
Promote the resources that can help people through even the darkest of times. The project aims to make people more aware of the statewide suicide prevention resources that young adults and families have found relevant to their experiences, identities, and communities.
Suicide doesn’t start in a moment of crisis. By addressing the risk factors that contribute to suicide and building up the protective factors that keep people from considering suicide, we can save lives. These seven actions are adapted from the CDC’s seven strategies for suicide prevention. While the CDC’s strategies are largely directed toward mental health professionals and policymakers, there are ways that every one of us can do more to prevent suicide. Read through the list and see how you can take action today to save lives.
1. Help people facing dire financial situations or the loss of housing.
Financial stress, homelessness, or even worries about finances or eviction can increase the risk of suicide. If you know of someone going through a hard time, make sure they don’t feel alone. Work to connect them to resources that can help with both their situation and their mental health. Also, be sure to support policies that ensure people aren’t falling through the cracks.
2. Learn what mental health and suicide prevention resources are available in your area.
The awareness of the importance of mental health is increasing, and the stigma around talking about and seeking mental health is decreasing. This means you are more likely to hear about someone’s struggles than you might have been even a few years ago. Then the question becomes, how can you help? Lost&Found offers a variety of tools for helpers, starting with the EARS framework (described in Lost&Found’s Let’s Talk about Mental Health Guide) to guide your conversation—engage, attend, reinforce, seek. Prepare yourself for the “seek” part of the conversation—seeking help together—by becoming familiar with the mental health and suicide prevention resources available in your area. Lost&Found’s Resources page provides a good overview. The first and easiest resource to become familiar with is this number: 988. This goes to the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, and it can be reached by calling or texting.
3. Reduce access to lethal means in your home, workplace, and community.
Two key pieces of data support this action: First, research shows that attempting suicide is often an impulse based on an intense emotion—the time between deciding to act and attempting suicide can be as little as 5 or 10 minutes. Second, if a person chooses a highly lethal method of suicide, but that method is not available, they tend not to substitute a different method. This means that if we can stretch the time between the decision and the attempt, and if we can make lethal means harder to access, we can save lives. Make sure medications and firearms are safely stored—in other words, behind a lock—in your home. Also look around your workplace and community—if there are places such as bridges where a suicide could take place easily, consider installing signs to encourage people to seek help.
4. Get involved in your community, and work to include those who might be isolated.
Studies suggest there is a correlation between social capital—meaning the sense of trust in a community and the connections between its members—and mental health. This means that all sorts of things that might not seem directly connected to mental health, such as knowing and interacting with your neighbors, block parties, and community improvement projects, are actually long-game suicide prevention strategies. In school settings, this can include participating in clubs or sports, as well as peer support programs. Consider how you could help build social capital in your community. If you are already involved in your community, invite someone else to participate with you to draw the circle of community support a little bigger.
5. Commit to learning—and teaching—how to deal with conflict.
Having the skills to deal with the stresses and adversities of life can help protect people from turning to suicide as an option. Programs that teach these skills, such as social-emotional learning programs for children and teens, or parenting skills and family relationship programs, can give people tools for dealing with problems—and, just as important, they can plant the idea that life’s problems can be solved, or at least managed and improved. One life skill that can help decrease stress and build relationships is learning how to deal productively with conflict. As polarization in society increases and gives people the idea that animosity in the face of conflict is a virtue, knowing how to address conflicts productively is a vital skill. This article on the basics of dealing with conflict in relationships is a good place to start.
6. Work to be accepting of people in marginalized demographic groups that are at higher risk of suicide.
Some groups have higher rates of suicidal behaviors than average. They include people with lower socio-economic status, people with a mental health problem, people who have previously attempted suicide, veterans and active military, people who are the victims of violence, LGBTQIA2S+ people, and members of some racial and ethnic groups. One group that is at higher risk is LGBTQIA2S+ youth. A Trevor Project survey found that 45 percent of LGBTQ youth had seriously considered suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth; 14 percent of LGBTQ youth had attempted suicide in the past year. The survey also pointed to an obvious way to help: suicide attempts were significantly lower among LGBTQ youth that were in accepting communities or who had accepting family and friends. Accepting LGBTQIA2S+ youth for who they are can save lives.
7. Learn how to talk about suicide in ways that don’t add to the trauma of those who have suffered a suicide loss.
The risk of suicide is higher for people who have lost a friend, family member, or other close contact to suicide. While talking about suicide is important—not talking about suicide can feed into a sense of shame for survivors of suicide loss—knowing how to talk about suicide is just as important so we don’t inadvertently add to a survivor’s pain. For example, one phrase to remove from your vocabulary is “committed suicide.” “Committed” is left over from the outdated belief that suicide is a criminal act. It’s better to say “died by suicide.” There are more suggestions for how to talk about mental health and suicide on page 26 in Lost&Found’s Let’s Talk About Mental Health Guide—download it free here.
You can review the CCD’s seven suicide prevention strategies here. Click on the image to see the full report.
This article is part of the 30 Days, 30 Stories: Let’s #DoMore to Prevent Suicide project. See a new story of resilience for every day of National Suicide Prevention Month here.