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Preventing Suicide in Iowa

Flickr / Tania Cataldo

Last year 392 Iowans died by suicide, making it the 10th leading cause of death in the state.

Monday marks the start of National Suicide Prevention Week. Since many people know someone who has taken their own life, Pat McGovern of the Iowa Department of Public Health says this tragedy is a public health issue.

"One risk with suicide is something called contagion," says McGovern. "[If] someone in your social circle or your near community dies by suicide, it puts others at more risk." 

McGovern says if you think someone might be considering suicide, you should ask how they are doing. 

"It is ok to ask someone, "Are you suicidal?'" he says. " It allows them to know that someone does care. That there is someone who notices...and is concerned enough to have that conversation." 

Signs someone might be thinking of suicide include talking about dying, hopelessness or taking their own life, pill hoarding or a buying firearm, especially if they have never owned a gun. Also people are more at risk after or during dramatic life changes such as the loss of a job, loved one or a move to a new community where a person doesn't have a strong support network.

McGovern says dealing with the loss of someone through suicide may take a years or decades, but that doesn’t mean those affected are helpless or alone. If you or someone you know are thinking about suicide or are affected by suicide, you can learn more at www.yourlifeiowa.org or by calling the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.