Let’s get real. I bet each of you know someone or know of someone who has taken their own life. I will further predict that each of you have had someone tell you that they did not know if they wanted to live or die before and probably, like many, didn’t know how to respond to that or how to help them.

Like you, I have unfortunately experienced several people close to me take their life or think very seriously about it, and would like to share some of those experiences with you from my heart.

My sister was a straight-A student, cheerleader, and from a loving supportive family, and yet, during her teenage years was when she first “played” around with the idea of suicide by taking a bunch of aspirin. This didn’t result in a hospitalization, thankfully. While my parents were supportive, they did not really understand that this was a cry for help, therefore they did not seek out help for her at that time.

Fast forwarding, she struggled with suicidal thoughts all through college and finally reached out for help when she was obtaining her doctorate. Those years were extremely rough with multiple ups and downs, and I can’t help but wonder if she would have received help as a teenager, how that could have changed her life.

To share another personal story with you, one of my best friends from high school committed suicide during our college years. We had absolutely no idea that anything was wrong. This is something that many often face in the wake of a suicide. Asking ourselves, why? and what could we have done differently?

The last story I will share had a deep and profound impact on my life and probably one of the reasons I am as passionate as I am about helping people get the help they need today.

I had the experience of a very close friend of mine losing both his mother and younger sister in a tragic way that involved suicide. I saw a family deeply hurt and in pain, and as I was a college student obtaining my degree in social work, I wondered how could I have seen this coming? Could I have done something to have prevented this tragic event from occurring?

As I look back — knowing what I know now — I now recognize some missed opportunities to speak up and possibly made a difference. I know I will never ignore a warning sign again!

I’m sharing these personal stories with you today to share real life, and why it is so important to understand the signs, be aware of changes, and never be scared or afraid to seek help. Suicide does not discriminate against age, race, means or profession. Suicide can be planned, but is often an impulsive action. Prevention, safety planning and trusting your judgment about reaching out can make the difference between life and death!

If you are interested in learning more about the warning signs, you can visit www.tspn.org or www.frontierhealth.org for resources and additional information. If you are having thoughts of suicide or know someone who is, please call the crisis line at 877-928-9062 anytime day or night!

Kristie Hammonds is president and CEO of Frontier Health.

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