September is suicide prevention month



If you or someone you know is in need of help, please get help or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-8255.


National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month kicked off starting Sept. 1, and all month long national and local organizations are doing their part to educate and support those affected by suicide in any way. 

According to month to month totals from the State of Iowa released to the Des Moines Register, Iowa has seen an increase in suicide deaths since 2000.  In 2019, there was a reported 521 deaths by suicide. 

Co-Founder of Alive & Running Iowa Troy Belmer shares that he believes this month gives a chance to make the discussion around mental health and suicide prevention more mainstream. 

“There is a concerted effort for an entire month dedicated to this, and personally, it’s rewarding to work hard on a project but to see other people working towards their goals this entire month too,” said Belmer.  

Belmer and his partner, Ryan Nesbit, founded Alive & Running Iowa in 2009.  The lifelong friends decided they wanted to give back in honor of their friend Roger, who they lost to suicide when they were sophomores in high school.  In 2009 they held their first 5k Walk/Run, and since then, it has blossomed into a non-profit organization dedicated to helping prevent suicide through research, education and advocacy. 

Not only have they hosted the 5k Walk/Run for more than 10 years, they have also partnered with other organizations, held or attended other events, spoken at schools and provided support groups and information on their website.  One of the most important aspects is the Question, Persuade and Refer (QPR) training they can provide.  

Nesbit is trained to teach QPR; more information on this training can be found on their website 

Something memorable that Belmer has seen this year for suicide prevention month is seeing race cars in Boone, Iowa for Super Nationals with a suicide prevention theme. 

“It’s been taken into a field where it’s more male dominant, and males don’t like to talk about that stuff so to see it where the fanbase is probably 70% male, is pretty cool.” 

Going into a global pandemic as suicide rates were on the rise, not only was our physical health more at risk, but our mental health and overall well-being were too.  Experts such as doctors, physicians, nurses and therapists as well as our society as a whole has seen within the last year and a half that isolation and lack of human interaction takes a toll on a person’s mental health.

Belmer said that people have been isolated in far too many ways, and as humans, he believes we are not meant for that. 

“It’s hard on people to be confined, to not see family, to not see relatives, to not see friends,” he said. “Also, financial strains can lead to a lot of spiraling and depression, and I think a lot of people over the last year struggled with that.” 

In a national survey taken from 2019 data from the CDC, suicide was reported to be the third leading cause of death from ages 15-24 years old.  

During these time periods in our lives, there will be a lot of transitions happening.  Shifting from high school to college, growing both physically and mentally, meeting new people, starting a job, moving, etc.  With an increase in freedom comes stress towards academic demands, financial struggles, getting used to a new environment and creating a new support system. 

“The biggest advice I can give to someone who knows of another person struggling is that you don’t have to be the professional. Our role in their journey is to get them to a professional and to treat it the same as you would if it was a physical problem.” 

One of the many resources UNI has on campus is the Student Health Center where students are welcomed to come in for counseling.  

Mental Health Therapist, William Peach, agrees that there are many life changing events that happen in your teenage years and early twenties

“In one regard, it’s just as important as it’s ever been to have these conversations and objectively, if someone hasn’t been concerned about our mental health as a whole, what more will it take than coming out of this pandemic because we don’t even understand the full ramifications of COVID on mental health yet,” Peach said. 

The UNI Counseling Center also provides many other services.  They have a crisis counselor on call, and students are able to make crisis appointments or walk in appointments with counselors.  There is also individual counseling, couples counseling and group counseling.  The counseling center is now providing ‘Let’s Talk’ hours at different locations on campus for students to have access to a different environment and person when in need to take that first step towards counseling with no paperwork needed.  There is now a VAR initiative and training being offered as well, to ultimately help students and others to be educated on how people talk about their mental health and how people take care of each other. 

Lastly, in the Student Health Center and all over their website, they provide numbers for Crisis Counseling, the National Suicide Hotline and Nation Crisis textline, resources for substance abuse, the Iowa victim call center and other referred resources within the community or nationally. 

“This is getting those people access to know how to take care of themselves and each other,” Peach said. 

Suicide prevention month is just one month out of the year, only 30 days.  Yet, we should be fighting and using our voices every month to advocate for mental health resources and suicide prevention. 

To those who know of someone who may be struggling, be kind.  Be a shoulder to lean on.  Be an ear for them to talk to.  You never know when or why, yet having that conversation can change someone’s day or life.  

To those who are struggling, read the first three sentences of this article again.  You have meaning.  This community is here to support you no matter what. 

“You’re worth talking about, you’re worth seeking out these resources.  Getting that point across is so paramount, making sure that people know that there is someone out there who you feel comfortable talking to, and that’s the start of this journey,” Peach said. 

Let’s start talking and be a light all 365 days a year.