Mental health advocates stress availability of resources, after high-profile suicide cases in Minnesota

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With heavy headlines dominating the holiday weekend, mental health providers and advocates say it’s important to remember that help is available for people struggling with mental health crises or suicidal thoughts.

On Saturday, the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office said that the deaths of three children and their mother are being investigated as a possible triple murder-suicide. Rescue crews recovered the four bodies from Vadnais Lake on Friday night and Saturday morning.

Then on Sunday, Northfield Police released details about a six-year-old missing girl, saying they believe her mother may have been involved in the disappearance before taking her own life.

“This is just a huge tragedy for those families in those communities as well,” said Sue Abderholden, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI. “Exposure to these kinds of traumatic events can be really difficult for someone who’s really struggling with their mental health.”

Abderholden also said checking in on each other is critical, saying that connecting with others prevents individuals from isolating and taking in tragic events by themselves.

But it’s also important for people to reach out for professional help if they need to, said Dr. Dan Reidenberg, executive director of SAVE, a local organization dedicated to the prevention of suicide.

“Oftentimes we know that people who are in a crisis if we can just get them to talk to someone that can really help de-escalate and calm them down,” Dr. Reidenberg said.

Easy access to that help is on the horizon. Later this month, the three-digit number “9-8-8” will be the designated number that will route people to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

“There are a lot of benefits to having this,” Dr. Reidenberg said.

When the change takes effect, the callers won’t have to remember or find the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number, although that will still be available at its current number: 1-800-273-8255.

But both Dr. Reidenberg and Abderholden caution that the rollout of that new number is expected to take some time.

“We’re not sure how smooth that transfer will be,” Abderholden said.

Here is a list of suicide prevention and mental health resources:

If you believe someone is at risk of suicide, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests you:

  • Ask questions about whether the individual is having suicidal thoughts.
  • Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
  • Seek help from a medical or mental health professional. If it is an emergency situation, take the person to a hospital.
  • Remove any objects from a person’s home that could be potentially used in a suicide.
  • Do not leave the person alone, if possible, until help is available.