How To Promote Suicide Prevention During Awareness Month

A suicide prevention display at a public library in Lincoln. (Becca Costello, NET News)
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September 11, 2019 - 6:45am

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. As part of our ongoing reporting project, Nebraska State of mental health, Becca Costello of NET News, sat down with Dr. Don Belau, a suicidologist and certified school psychologist, to talk about what health officials hope to gain this month.

Becca Costello: Can you talk about why Suicide Prevention Month is important?

Dr. Belau: It's important because it reminds us all as to the importance of promoting suicide prevention on multiple levels, promoting positive behavioral health as a responsibility individually and collectively.

And what are some of the ways that we can collectively as a community promote mental health?

In virtually every aspect of our lives we can promote suicide prevention and we can do that by promoting early detection of depression, of connecting with one another.

Here in Nebraska in the past year we've had amazing challenges, you know, Nebraska Strong talks about coming together as a a large family and promoting recovery. Recovery from floods, recovery from whatever natural disasters that we may may confront. Because we do know that with the times that we live in our rural communities and other aspects of our lives are confronted with distress.

How big is suicide as a public health issue? How much are we facing here when we talk about trying to prevent suicides?

The data indicates that there are ebbs and flows of suicide in this country. Now Nebraska is unique in that comparing to our neighboring states, our rate of increase is not as high as say our neighbors in Colorado or South Dakota.

But it's still substantial. We see death by suicide may impact as many as 150 to 300 people that's connected in some way.

There are certain groups of people that seem to be more at risk for suicidal behavior, like young LGBTQ teens. What can the public health community do to address elevated risk in those minority communities?

Positive mental health begins in our school settings, and workplace settings as well, to promote a no bullying tolerated sort of philosophy, and in my opinion promoting ways of connecting and understanding. I think we see the situation in similar to stigma. You know, I think we see across the country and in Nebraska a change, reduction perhaps, in the stigma associated with suicide and hopefully a reduction in the bullying as well, but it's an ongoing process.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline


How has the public perception and discussion about suicide changed over the last few decades?

People are more willing to talk about death by suicide rather than not. It's essentially coming out of the closet if you will, where the stigma said if we talked about it, then something's going to happen to us.

So by promoting communication, promoting an awareness that suicide prevention is a public health challenge that is all of our responsibility to work with, we were able to see people to come together. We see the public awareness of saying, hey, cancer doesn't mean death, cancer means you can survive a treatment and moving forward. And that's the same sort of relationship where we're hoping to see with suicide prevention is by talking about suicide.

Just like we're talking about cancer that you can survive, one can survive depression, one can survive whatever challenge that one is facing, without resorting to a series of behaviors that may lead to their their death by suicide.

There's a big spotlight on suicide prevention this month in September. What is the main message you hope people take away from this month?

I think the main message is, whether it be with our young people or our fellow adults at our workplace or in our faith communities, wherever we're at, the main message is to be connected and to promote positive, caring support.

Taking the time to connect, when asking "How are you?" and someone says, "fine." If your instincts suggest that they may not be fine, take a couple minutes and explore a little bit more.

That caring is our best suicide prevention. That's the message I'd like to see us promote this month and next month and every month afterwards is, take a little time. 

If you or someone you know is struggling, help is available. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK or online at

Stay tuned for more from our ongoing reporting project Nebraska: State of Mental Health, on air and online. 



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