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Events promote talking about suicide

With the number of suicides edging up in Minnesota, a local suicide awareness group is holding a 5K run/walk and bringing in a statewide group to provide training on suicide prevention.

Suicide statistics for 2016 have not yet been released. However, the previous year's data reported 726 suicide deaths in Minnesota, up from 686 the year before, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. The rate had also risen, from 12.2 deaths per 100,000 Minnesotans to 13.1 percent, the highest rate recorded in the state. These data do not include suicide attempts.

In February, the local Community Suicide Awareness Education Group formed and is working to combat "old-school" ways of viewing suicide, said group member Julie Stern. The stigma associated with suicide and suicidal thoughts might prevent family members or friends from openly addressing concerns.

"The more people know, the better able you're able to help your family and community members," she said.

The 5K run/walk is planned for Saturday, Sept. 23, to support suicide awareness and education. Many people don't know what the warning signs of suicide are or how to get help, Stern said.

The following week, the group is teaming up with Region IV South to bring the Minnesota chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness to town. The statewide chapter will offer free, one-hour sessions on a widely-taught strategy called Question, Persuade and Refer.

Trainers call it QPR for short and compare it to CPR in its usefulness and ability to save lives.

"People know what CPR is," Stern said. "Let's have everybody know what QPR is."

Some questions she said people might ask a co-worker, loved one or friend who seems down: Are you having suicidal thoughts? Have you thought of this in the past? Do you have a plan?

Minnesotans might find these questions tough to ask.

"That's our society," Stern said. "We're really scared to insult and ask those questions. But ... taking that risk is better than not taking any steps to help someone."

Events

Called "End the Silence," a 5K run/walk is planned for Saturday, Sept. 23, to support suicide awareness and education. Registration begins at 8 a.m. with an entry fee of $10 for age 10-18 and $20 for age 19 and up. There is no cost for children age 9 and under. The race will start at 9 a.m. at the Alexandria Area YMCA. In case of rain, the race will take place inside the Y.

On Tuesday, Sept. 26, and Wednesday, Sept. 27, the Minnesota chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness will offer free, one-hour sessions on a widely-taught strategy called Question, Persuade and Refer. Tuesday sessions will be at 10 a.m., 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. at Broadway Ballroom, 115 30th Ave. E. Wednesday's session is at 1:30 p.m. at the Douglas County Hospital lobby meeting room, 111 17th Ave. E.

Registration is required. To register, or for more information, contact 651-645-2948 or see "classes" at namihelps.org.

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