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      Suicide prevention: know the signs

      Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control. They reported over 38,000 suicides in 2010, more than 1,200 of them here in Michigan. Many are stressing the importance of suicide awareness and prevention.

      Suicide is a problem in all age groups nationwide. Counselor Daniel Maas at the Great Lakes Recovery Centers says preventing suicide is like cancer: early detection is paramount. Sometimes all it takes is another person showing they care.

      "For a suicidal person, it looks like the misery has no end, but the compassionate connection with another being that you can share your misery with is probably the most important thing...throwing that person a line," said Maas.

      Teenagers in high school and college are at a higher risk for suicide. Suicidal thoughts are most commonly linked to depression and can include substance abuse, among other things. Each situation is unique to an individual.

      Experts say to look for negative changes in behavior, poor diet and sleep (either too much or too little), talk of hopelessness, finishing up business, settling accounts, giving away possessions, or asking others to care for pets.

      Maas says suicide is hard to talk about, but if you're concerned about a potentially suicidal person, just confront them and you're likely to get an honest response.

      "Ask people very directly, are you having thoughts about hurting yourself? Are you having thoughts about killing yourself?" Maas said.

      Around the U.P., events, like the Out of the Darkness Walks, spread awareness and remember suicide victims. At last weekend's walk in Iron Mountain, we met Pat Cork of Pembine.

      "I did try and take my own life. It was hard to talk about. In '87 I was going through a divorce...There's light at the end of the tunnel. I'm happy it didn't happen. I wouldn't be here today," said Cork.

      Another awareness event, the End the Silence Walk will take place this Saturday in Escanaba.

      Experts say that suicide is an emergency and that those with suicidal thoughts should seek help.

      The GLRC provides outpatient mental health counseling for clients. You can "dial help" at 1-800-273-8255 any time to reach the Upper Peninsula Suicide Prevention Coalition. The Michigan Suicide and Crisis Hotlines provide similar services 24/7 at 1-800-784-2433.