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SUICIDE AWARENESS: Camanche group plans forum, walk

Clinton Herald - 7/24/2022

Jul. 23—CAMANCHE — From dawn to dusk — and every other hour of the day — Shawn Felts' focus is on the mental health of those she comes into contact with.

As Speak Out Against Suicide's outreach coordinator, Felt's day is spent connecting people to mental health resources to prevent suicide or help families and community members cope in its aftermath. Her work involves recognizing the signs that a person is struggling, helping others do the same, and working together as a community to lift each other up when life gets difficult.

"We want to talk about it," Felts said of mental health and suicide awareness. "We don't want it to be a negative thing.

"Me knowing that you know that I'm not having such a great day helps me feel better." Taking stock of ourselves also is key, she said. "Self talk... if we can't treat ourselves good, we can't help other people."

Getting people to open up and talk are some of the goals behind Tuesday's mental health forum hosted by Life Connections and Speak Out Against Suicide. It's the first forum of its kind that Speak Out Against Suicide has offered to the community, and one that Felts hopes will engage people to get involved in suicide awareness and prevention, encourage them to want to learn more and help them get involved in the mission.

The event gets underway at Camanche Middle School at 5:30 p.m. with food served until 6 p.m. The forum portion begins at 6 p.m., and will focus on barriers that children struggle with and how to help children, parents and guardians navigate through them. Child care will be provided for those who attend.

Felts is hoping for a strong turnout and that community interest will lead to more forums, perhaps one every six months.

"When all the suicides were happening, if you followed our Facebook page, we were getting all kinds of shares and people asking what can we do to help," she said. "This is how we help."

A mission of prevention

Suicide is a leading cause of death in the U.S., with the rate of about one death every 11 minutes, according to the CDC. The CDC also reports that nearly 46,000 suicides were recorded nationwide in 2020.

In response to suicides in the Camanche community, Speak Out Against Suicide was created nine years ago as a way to help others before they attempted to take their own life.

The group, led by board members who have been personally affected by a loved one's suicide, works to eliminate the stigma associated with suicide prevention and depression and offers resources for grief support.

Speak Out Against Suicide has an office at 1805 S. Washington Blvd., Camanche and offers in-house, one-on-one support, providing assistance by phone, text or email and leads several in-house support groups.

To increase awareness, Felts meets people in person and utilizes Speak Out Against Suicide's Facebook page. There she offers words of encouragement, posts the organization's contact information and reaches out to those who may be hurting. She is mindful when a suicide or suspected suicide occurs locally to post messages that Speak Out is available anytime to those who need to talk.

Along with the forum, Speak Out also is gearing up for Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in September. Felts said board member Kim Willis introduced the idea to light up the night with purple porch lights in September.

"She came up with the idea, and we ran with it," Felts said. "It's so important with mental health right now."

Camanche residents can pick up purple light bulbs at Speak Out's office. Felts posts when a new shipment arrives and what hours people can stop in to pick them up. They also also will be available at community events.

She said the group hopes communities throughout the region will join in, with purple lights glowing throughout the month.

The group's annual Speak Out Against Suicide Walk also is planned for Sept. 25. The walk begins at 1 p.m. and the cost is $20 per person. Children 10 and under can participate for free. Walkers can register at

The walk will begin at Imperial Lanes in Camanche. Contact Speak Out Against Suicide at (563) 259-8255 or for more information.

All proceeds help fund the organization's scholarship program aimed at supporting those pursuing higher education in the mental health field.

To get help

The 988 suicide prevention line, launched last Saturday, is a great resource for those who need help, whether they are a person struggling with suicidal thoughts or a loved one who needs to get help for them, Felts said.

"It's for anybody. If I notice you're going into crisis and you're not willing to call 988, I can call 988 and they will help me help you," she said.

Iowans who call or text 988 will be connected to counselors trained in crisis management and de-escalation, and who can connect Iowans to the services and supports that they need, the state health department said.

"The national launch of 988 coincides with the significant work we've been doing here in Iowa since I took office to enhance and improve our historically fragmented crisis response system," Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said in a state health department news release prior to the launch. "Iowa families — all families — should have quick and easy access to necessary mental and behavioral health care resources when they need them, and 988 will serve as a centralized resource for Iowans to utilize during their times of need."

Help can also be reached by calling one of the phone numbers listed below:

—National Suicide Hotline, 1-800-273-8255.

—Eastern Iowa Crisis Line, 1-844-430-0375.

—Your Life Iowa, 1-844-775-9276.

—Drug & Alcohol Crisis (Illinois), 1-855-656-0263.

—Mental Health Crisis Line (Illinois), 1-844-549-4266.


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