Advocates urge others to bring up discussions surrounding mental health on World Suicide Prevention Day

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) Suicide rates are increasing, both in Iowa and across the country. But prevention is possible, that's what mental health advocates want everyone to know on World Suicide Prevention Day.

Members from area non-profits, medical staff and city leaders all gathered before Cedar Rapids City Council Tuesday to think of ways to decrease suicide rates. They all agreed it's time to end the stigma surrounding mental health.

Dawn Marie Joseph has a tattoo on her wrist that reminds her she is here for a reason. A permanent mark after she struggled with mental health issues and a suicide attempt.

"I was admitted to the hospital for bipolar disorder and had a manic episode," Joseph said.

That's when she connected with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Chapter in Linn County. Through that organization, she found resources to help her live a healthy life.

"Stress and anxiety, that was something I had to deal with too, and found that mediation, yoga, prayer, gratitude like I practice that stuff daily," Joseph said.

Joseph joined others at Cedar Rapids City Council to show there are people who care. There, council members made a proclamation for National Suicide Prevention Month.

"Everyone has the capacity for suicidal thoughts, whether they have a mental health issue or not," Katherine Shea, a registered nurse, said. "We need to have the conversations."

One suggestion is that parents should seek training on how to talk to children about mental health concerns. People should also work on feeling comfortable talking to one another about these topics, like in peer-to-peer sessions.

"I've worked with a lot of children and I've noticed its a growing epidemic in children," Joseph said.

That's what Joseph does now, starting volunteering for NAMI two weeks ago, as the organization looks to target more youth populations.
Joseph says the key is to teach self-love and care.

Volunteers and staff hope talking to more people about mental health will start to reduce the stigma. This all comes after data from last year that show suicide increased more than 30 percent in Iowa over the last 17 years.

For anyone who might have thoughts of suicide, there is help available.
Foundation 2 has a crisis line at 319-362-2174. The Naitonal Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also available at 1-800-273-8255.