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Echo Press Editorial: Shed more light on suicide and QPR

People of all ages participated in Saturday's "End the Silence 5K Run/Walk" in Alexandria to support suicide awareness and education. (Al Edenloff | Echo Press)

No one likes to talk about suicide.

It's kind of how cancer was years ago. Even mentioning the dreaded C word was taboo. It was as if a person dared uttered it, he or she would give fate — and the disease — an upper hand.

But shunning a disease that claims so many lives only empowers it. Saying nothing about it doesn't make it disappear.

Instead of staying silent, Douglas County residents should be talking about suicide — the causes, the warning signs, the help that's available. Fortunately, a local group has formed, the Community Suicide Awareness Education Group, that's breaking the silence. It's trying to shatter the old ways of viewing suicide and suicidal thoughts by bringing the problem out in the open.

The group sponsored a 5K run/walk in Alexandria this past Saturday to support suicide awareness and education. It's also teaming up to bring the Minnesota chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Health to Alexandria this week. It conducted three free sessions on Tuesday and another one will take place this Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. at the Douglas County Hospital lobby meeting room, 117 17th Ave. East. Registration is required; call 651-645-2948 for more information or see classes at

The session will teach an effective strategy for stopping suicide called Question, Persuade and Refer — QPR for short. It encourages people who are worried about a friend, co-worker or a relative who seems to be struggling emotionally to ask questions: Are you having suicidal thoughts? Have you thought about this in the past? Do you have a plan? People may be scared that they could be insulting someone by asking such tough questions, but the talk could save a life.

A separate event this Saturday, Sept. 30, is also creating more local awareness of suicide. The Matt Kjelland Memorial 5K Run/Walk that will take place on from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Alexandria City Park. About 200 people are expected to attend the event that will help fund a scholarship in Kjelland's name and be donated to increase Lyme's Disease awareness and suicide awareness and prevention.

Too many lives — young and old — are being cut short through depression and mental health problems that lead to suicide. In 2015, there were 726 suicide deaths in Minnesota — up from 686 the previous year. The suicide rate in Minnesota has increased from 12.2 deaths per 100,000 people to 13.1 — the highest rate recorded in the state.

And those numbers do not include suicide attempts.

Think how many of those lives could have been saved if those dealing with depression had more encouragement to talk about their thoughts, if others would have recognized potential problems and intervened, if the victims knew about the help that is available.

In a Sept. 20 Echo Press story, a member of the Community Suicide Awareness Education Group, Julie Stern, noted that the stigma associated with suicide might prevent family members or friends from opening addressing concerns. "The more people know, the better able you are to help your family and community members," she said.

More people should know about QPR. It can make as big a difference as CPR.

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