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How can you “Be the One”? Mental Health Memo for September

How can you “Be the One”?

About the author: Brook Thurman, BSW, is a social worker at the Human Services Center.

Every one of us has the power to be the one that helps save the life of a person that may be in crisis or contemplating suicide.  We can each be the one, but how?


Suicide hurts all of us and no matter your stage of life, income, sex, race or religion, suicide does not discriminate. According to the Department of Health, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in South Dakota. In 2020 there were 185 suicide deaths and the leading cause among individuals 10 to 19 years of age. During 2011-2020, 79 percent of suicides were male, and 21 percent were female, and the suicide rate of Native Americans was 2.5 times higher than whites.


Suicide can touch anyone, anywhere and at any time. My grandfather died by suicide before I was even born. My mother was just 14. It affected her entire life. People didn’t talk about suicide at all in the 1970’s when he died. It was referred to as “the accident.”


We have seen improvements over the years in talking about the stigmas of mental health, but how can we do better? It may be uncomfortable at first, but all of us have the power to save a life. Knowing some signs to watch for and starting the conversation is the first step. You don’t have to know what to say to say something. Here are some pointers to start the conversation.


  1. JUST ASK. It’s ok to ask, “Are you thinking about suicide?” There is a common misconception that asking someone if they are suicidal, gives them the idea. Asking in this direct, nonjudgmental manner can open the door for effective conversation.

  2. KEEP THEM SAFE. If they are thinking about suicide, ask if they’ve thought about how they would do it. Then separate them from the situation or anything they could use to hurt themselves. If you need help, reach out to a trusted adult.

  3. HELP THEM CONNECT. Rally support. Contact family, friends, teachers, coaches, church members and help them build a network. Share the new three-digit number, 988, to call, text, or chat.

  4. LISTEN. Do not dismiss or judge. You don’t have to offer advice. Just listen.

  5. BE THERE. Be there physically or by phone. Don’t commit to anything you are not willing or able to accomplish. If you are unable to be physically present, talk with them to develop some idea for others who might be able to help.

  6. FOLLOW UP. Check in on a regular basis. Continue to show you care. Have a plan in place if you can’t reach them.

By learning these steps, individuals are more likely to feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful after speaking to someone who listens without judgment. During Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, let’s commit ourselves to starting the conversation to show we care.

If you or someone you know needs resources, it’s now easier than ever.  This summer 988 became the national three-digit phone number for all mental health, substance use and suicide crises.  It provides rapid access to support through connection with trained crisis counselors. When dialed from a 605-area code, 988 will be routed to the Helpline Center in South Dakota.

Additional resources:

South Dakota Suicide Prevention: https://sdsuicideprevention.org/


The Helpline Center:


Department of Health:

South Dakota Treatment Resource Hotline:  1.800.920.4343

If you are a Veteran experiencing a mental health crisis, call 1-800-273-8288 and press 1 or text 838255.

If you are a LGBTQ youth experiencing a mental health crisis, call 1-866-488-7386 or text ‘START’ to 678-678

If you are a youth experiencing a mental health crisis, text icare at 898211 for free and confidential support with trusted staff.