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Suicide education can help prevent it

Every time Mary Weiler hears about another death by suicide, she gets a lump in her throat and an ache in her heart.

Weiler, chairwoman of North Dakota's chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, is reaching out to residents of Cooperstown, N.D., who are grieving the loss of 16-year-old Cassidy Andel, who took her own life Thursday.

Weiler's daughter Jen died by suicide five years ago at age 33. Weiler sat down on Saturday to write a message to the Andel family.

"I know my daughter has her own story of deep struggles, depression, anxiety, and more than likely the hardest struggle of all was working so hard to hide the intense physical, emotional pain from her family and friends day after day," Weiler wrote.

Weiler also sent information to Andel's pastor and school superintendent to assist people affected by her death.

Mary Weiler's daughter Brenda, also on the board of North Dakota's American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said it's important to educate people about suicide.

Brenda Weiler said she didn't recognize some of the warning signs in her sister.

Warning signs

Here are some tips from the AFSB on what to do if you fear a loved one may be contemplating suicide:

•Know the facts: More than 90 percent of people who kill themselves are suffering from one or more psychiatric disorders. Depression and other mental disorders that may lead to suicide are - in most cases - recognizable and treatable.

•Recognize the imminent dangers: Signs that most directly warn of suicide include threatening to hurt or kill oneself, looking for ways to kill oneself, talking or writing about death, dying or suicide, and making plans for a potentially serious attempt.

Other warning signs include insomnia, intense anxiety, feeling depressed or trapped, feeling hopeless, feeling there's no purpose to live, and rage or anger.

Acting reckless, engaging in violent behavior, increasing alcohol or drug use and withdrawing from friends and family also can be warning signs.

•Take it seriously: 50 to 75 percent of all people who die by suicide give warning of their intentions to a friend or family member.

•Be willing to listen: Start by telling him or her you are concerned and give examples. If he or she is depressed, don't be afraid to ask whether he or she is considering suicide. Ask if the person has a therapist and is taking medication.

Do not attempt to argue someone out of suicide. Let the person know you care, that he or she is not alone and that depression can be treated.

•Seek professional help: Be actively involved in encouraging the person to see a doctor or mental health professional immediately.

•In an acute crisis: If a friend or loved one is threatening suicide or making plans for suicide, this is an acute crisis. Do not leave the person alone, and remove firearms, drugs or objects that could be used for suicide.

Take the person to an emergency room or walk-in clinic at a psychiatric hospital.

•Follow up on treatment: Suicidal individuals are often hesitant to seek help and may need continuing support to pursue treatment.

Tips for survivors

Mary Weiler said for every suicide death, there is an average of six survivors. In some cases, an individual's death may affect an entire community.

"Friends are considered survivors, it's not just immediate family," Brenda Weiler said.

For Mary Weiler, holidays and the anniversary of her daughter's death are still difficult, but she finds that with time she has more inner strength to handle it better.

Organizing the annual Out of the Darkness Community Walk has been an effective way for the family to cope.

"I've always said, it's not about getting over it, it's about carrying it with you," she said. "And it's how you choose to carry it with you to always honor, respect and remember. That's how you have to look at it."

Here are tips from the AFSB for survivors:

•Know that you are not alone. Survivors experience a wide range of grief reactions, including shock, symptoms of depression, anger, relief and guilt.

•Reach out to family and friends. Because some people may not know what to say, you may need to take the initiative to talk about the suicide and ask for help.

•Maintaining contact with other people is especially important during the stress-filled months after a loved one's suicide.

•Keep in mind that people grieve in their own way and at their own pace.

•Many survivors find it comforting to talk to others who have also suffered a suicide loss. A list of suicide support groups is available at

More information

•If you or someone you know is in crisis, call (800) 273-TALK (8255).

•For more information, visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website,

•Nov. 20 is National Survivors of Suicide Day, which features 260 simultaneous conferences across the nation for survivors of suicide loss.

Concordia College will host a conference at 11:30 a.m. Nov. 20 in Jones Conference Center.

The University of North Dakota will host an event at 11 a.m. Nov. 20 in the lower level of the Memorial Union.

You can also register at to participate from your home computer.