Stop the Stigma: Suicide Prevention in the Keweenaw


Suicide. It’s an uncomfortable topic, but why? With Suicide being the second leading cause of death of Americans aged 10-34, why aren’t we talking about it? Suicide rates are on the rise and it is time to stop the stigma of suicide and start talking about it.

In our community alone, depressive symptoms are one of the main risk factors of the youth in our area. This data was gathered for the Houghton Keweenaw Communities that Care youth survey. Since then, the CTC’s Suicide Prevention Work Group has made it their mission to bring more awareness to suicide prevention in the keweenaw.

One of the biggest excuses people have for staying silent about suicide is the idea that talking about suicide will “plant” the idea of commiting suicide into the head of someone who is currently not having these thoughts. This idea however, is false.

The World Health Organization states, “Given the widespread stigma around suicide, most people who are contemplating suicide do not know who to talk to. Rather than encouraging suicidal behavior, talking openly can give an individual other options or the time to rethink their decision, thereby preventing suicide.”

By being open to talking about suicide you are showing your family, friends, colleagues, and peers that talking about suicide isn’t scary and it is necessary in ending the stigma surrounding it.

Now comes the biggest question: What can I do to help? The easiest things to do are Ask, Listen, and Do.

Ask your friends how they are. What’s going on in their lives? Anything causing them extra stress in their life? Everything been going well lately? Do they need help with anything? And if you really are concerned about them: Are you having suicidal thoughts?

Listen to what those that are around you are saying. Have they mentioned or joked about suicide in the past? Have they shown signs of distress in any way?

Do help them get help if they need it. Don’t brush things off. If your gut is telling you something is off, something probably is! Whether it’s helping them find the resources that are available to them, helping them find someone to talk to, or passing along the national suicide prevention hotline number (1-800-273-8255) anything is better than ignoring a cry for help.

There are many ways to educate yourself on what to do when faced with someone in a suicidal crisis. Question Persuade Refer (QPR) is one opportunity. Contact Mary LeDoux at or call 906-482-9077 or Lauren Kirwin about participating or hosting a QPR training session for your organization, club or group or even your family. The more people who know how to help, the better our chances are to significantly lower the rates of suicide.

This year at the 2nd Annual Suicide Prevention Walk on the Houghton waterfront, over 100 community members gathered to honor loved ones lost due to suicide. Our goal is to one day not have a suicide prevention walk. Not because we shouldn’t honor those that we have lost, but because I hope that someday we will put an end to suicide. By ending the stigma and speaking up, I believe that someday we will.

This article was written by Lauren Kirwin, Communities That Care Suicide Prevention workgroup chair. Lauren has been active with Communities That Care for the past year and is also a QPR trainer. Email her at if you are interested in learning more about the Suicide Prevention workgroup or QPR training.