Suicide is a national public health issue that impacts individuals from all walks of life. It does not discriminate by age, race or financial status. Reasons people take their own lives are complex and it takes a village to address them.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2017 in Minnesota alone there were 783 deaths by suicide making it the eighth leading cause of death.
Pine County Veteran’s Services Officer, Mindy Sandell is working on getting suicide awareness out there through a recently formed coalition called PICK-M Up Suicide Prevention Coalition. The coalition, which covers Pine, Isanti, Chisago, Kanabec and Mille Lacs counties, was started in October of 2021 out of a need to end the tragedy of suicide in these communities and also within the veteran population.
The coalition is a grassroot effort with the goal of ending suicide through such things as suicide prevention education, attending various community events to help those feeling isolated to feel connected, and providing mental health crisis line information.
According to Sandell, there are 22 veterans who take their own lives nationwide each day. “We want them to know there are options out there,” said Sandell.
Although Sandell works with veterans, this coalition is not just for veterans, this is for anyone in Pine, Isanti, Chisago, Kanabec and Mille Lacs counties.
“We want people to know the signs, so they can see them in their friends and loved ones, it could save a life,” said Sandell.
Sandell, who suffers from PTSD, depression and anxiety said “There are days that I just want it to be done, but thankfully I have a great support system and haven’t ever gone to that extreme, but I can understand.”
There are different options out there for help in a crisis, said Sandell. If you, or someone you know is feeling suicidal, they can text MN to 741741 for 24 hour help. Veterans can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8355 and press 1 to connect with a responder. They can also text 838255 or combat veterans can call 877-WAR-VETS (877-927-8387) to speak with another combat veteran who understands the struggles.
Another option for veterans is the VA hospital in St. Cloud. “If you have a friend or family member who is a veteran and is showing signs of wanting to take their life, you can drive them over to St. Cloud and they will take them in and get them the help they need,” said Sandell.
The coalition currently has 40 stakeholders and they are growing. “Stakeholders are anywhere from nurses, social workers, a pastor and much more. They are from across the five counties. We are always looking for more people to become stakeholders, people that have a passion and/or interest in helping save lives by preventing suicide,” Sandell said.
The coalition meets virtually on the third Tuesday of the month. If you are interested in helping prevent suicide please reach out to Mindy Sandell at 320-216-4251 or email her at email@example.com.
Signs to watch for in veterans
• Calling old friends, particularly military friends, to say goodbye
• Cleaning a weapon that they may have as a souvenir
• Visits to graveyards
• Obsessed with news coverage of the war, the military channel
• Wearing their uniform or part of their uniform, boots, etc.
• Talking about how honorable it is to be a soldier
• Sleeping more (sometimes the decision to commit suicide brings a sense of peace of mind, and they sleep more to
• Becoming overprotective of children
• Standing guard of the house, perhaps while everyone is asleep staying up to “watch over” the house, obsessively locking doors, windows
• If they are on medication, stopping medication and/or hoarding medication
• Hoarding alcohol -- not necessarily hard alcohol, could be wine
• Spending spree, buying gifts for family members and friends “to remember by”
• Defensive speech “you wouldn’t understand,” etc.
• Stop making eye contact or speaking with others.
• Appearing sad or depressed most of the time
• Hopelessness; feeling like there’s no way out
• Anxiety, agitation, sleeplessness, or mood swings
• Feeling as if there is no reason to live
• Feeling excessive guilt, shame, or sense of failure
• Rage or anger
• Engaging in risky activities without thinking
• Losing interest in hobbies, work, or school
• Increasing alcohol or drug misuse
• Neglecting personal welfare; a deteriorating physical appearance
• Withdrawing from family and friends
• Showing violent behavior, like punching a hole in the wall or getting into fights
• Giving away prized possessions
• Getting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, or writing a will