Tag: prevention

Seven Ways You Can #DoMore to Prevent Suicide This September

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.

Here is an overview of the EARS framework. Find more information about the EARS framework in the Let’s Talk About Mental Health Guide.


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.


Project shares stories of resilience during National Suicide Prevention Month

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.

Lost&Found conducted the first #30Days30Stories project last year. Those stories reached an impressive number of people through social media channels and also yielded insights on the empowering possibilities of storytelling.

Two S.D. nonprofits addressing suicide to merge

Survivors Joining for Hope’s work supporting suicide loss survivors will become a department of Lost&Found

Survivors Joining for Hope, a nonprofit that provides financial support to families that have suffered a suicide loss, will cease to be an independent organization on August 1, but its work and its name will continue as a department of the suicide prevention organization Lost&Found.

The board of Survivors Joining for Hope (SJ4H) voted on June 20 to dissolve the organization and pass its assets, as well as its mission and programming, to Lost&Found.

Board members of SJ4H, which has been run entirely by volunteers, see the integration with Lost&Found as a way for SJ4H to have a bigger impact and get closer to reaching its potential.

“Survivors Joining for Hope is tremendously excited at the opportunity to unite with Lost&Found,” said SJ4H Founder and Executive Director Brad Hearst. “Alliance of the two organizations brings the opportunity to support a larger audience and grow SJ4H’s programming to levels that our present capacity didn’t allow. The mental health community and survivors of suicide loss will now have greater support structure throughout South Dakota.”

Lost&Found sees the addition of SJ4H’s programming as a way to expand its work addressing the scourge of suicide in South Dakota and the surrounding region.

“We have been honored to partner with Brad Hearst and Survivors Joining for Hope (SJ4H) over the past six years to prioritize and support suicide prevention efforts in our community,” said Erik Muckey, Executive Director and CEO of Lost&Found. “The Lost&Found team is energized by the opportunity to join forces and continue the impact of SJ4H and its programs and financial assistance for suicide loss survivors for decades to come.”

Stakeholders from both organizations are working together to shape how SJ4H’s work will continue as part of Lost&Found. These are some of the changes that will be part of the integration:

  • The name “Survivors Joining for Hope” will continue as the name of Lost&Found’s new postvention services department.
  • Lost&Found’s mission has been updated to include youth as young as 10 years old (youth as young as 15 had previously been part of its target demographic) and to include suicide postvention as well as prevention services.
  • SJ4H’s Financial Assistance Program for survivors of suicide loss will continue, prioritizing youth and young adults (ages 10-34) and/or their support networks in South Dakota, starting with the campus partners currently served by Lost&Found.
  • The Survivors Support & Resource Network will continue.
  • The new department will work to craft and recommend postvention policies for schools, colleges, and employers.
  • SJ4H’s Youth Prevention programming will be integrated into Lost&Found’s programming.
  • The work of highlighting stories of those impacted by suicide loss will continue through blog posts, videos, and podcast content.

The work of the Survivor Support & Resource Network, the development of postvention policies, and the Youth Prevention Program will be done with new staff and community partners. These programs will be rolled out in coming months.

“Our hope is that, through unification with Lost&Found, we will be able to provide direct support to the youth throughout our service area,” Hearst said. “We felt that L&F had the infrastructure and programming to bring both our survivors loss support program and youth program to a new level. The goal will be to bring loss support programming to college-aged students and younger as well as to grow our peer-to-peer support network.”


About Survivors Joining for Hope

Survivors Joining for Hope was founded in 2016 by Brad Hearst of Sioux Falls, S.D., after his brother died by suicide. The name of the organization honors his brother, Sergei Joseph Hearst, through its initials. SJ4H was founded to provide funding to families that had suffered a loss by suicide so they could focus on grief recovery instead of financial pressure.

The board initially had four members; over six years, it grew to 11 members. By 2022, the organization’s initial focus on the Sioux Empire had expanded to cover the entire state of South Dakota and beyond—SJ4H has served people from nearly every state on the East and West Coasts. Its programming also expanded to include a support network, support groups, and suicide prevention programming for youth.


About Lost&Found

Lost&Found was founded in 2010 by five high school graduates from South Dakota who were motivated to “do more” to prevent suicide. For the first eight or so years, Lost&Found’s work was centered on its campus chapters, which raised awareness of mental health needs and advocated for suicide prevention policies.

The organization has grown significantly in the past four years—from no employees to 15, from a focus on campus chapters to work in three departments (Student Programs, Education & Advocacy, and Evaluation & Research Services), and from three campus chapters to working with 13 post-secondary institutions in South Dakota and Minnesota. More geographical and audience expansion is coming this year.

The organization is headquartered in Sioux Falls and currently serves communities as far west as the Black Hills and as far east as the Twin Cities.