Suicide Prevention Action Network closed in March, but one group is continuing its mission

Idaho Falls

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Courtesy Community Suicide Prevention

IDAHO FALLS — With suicide touching nearly every individual in east Idaho, former members of the recently dissolved Suicide Prevention Action Network of Idaho decided to continue the mission.

Community Suicide Prevention is a new nonprofit organization led by former board members of SPAN of eastern Idaho.

RELATED: Suicide Prevention Action Network of Idaho announces it’s closing

“We decided we can’t let this go away because we really need an organization that’s functional and connected,” said Andrea Hansen, a Community Suicide Prevention board member.”I think it’s very important to continue the organization because there are a number of things that you can’t do independently very well and you’re empowered to do in an organization.”

Hansen says by bringing people together in the organization, those in the community will be able to work to overcome the challenges, stigmas and effects associated with suicide in eastern Idaho. She said the organization brings in those who want to make a difference.

Sheila Murdock is the organization’s chairwoman. Her son took his own life almost 20 years ago at age 17.

“Talking about it helps people to feel better. It feels like they’ve got someone that understands who is willing to be there to support them and help them,” Murdock says.

The first time she heard about her son wanting to die, she discouraged him from talking about it.

“No, no, no, don’t think that,” she recalls telling him.

Years later, she learned that shuts people down. It could have helped to let him talk about his feelings without fear of hurting others, she says.

The lesson’s she’s learned in the years since has made her determined to get the word out to the community, and debunk the myths and stigmas associated with suicide.

Idaho has the eighth highest suicide rate in the United States, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. And in 2017, the most recent year with data available, Bonneville County had one of the highest rates of suicide in the state.

“In Idaho, we’re pretty tough,” Hansen said. “Sometimes it’s hard to get help for something that’s difficult for you.”

Hansen and Murdock say getting help for difficulties associated with mental health does not make you weak, but in fact shows a sign of strength. That is part of the message they hope to get out with Community Suicide Prevention.

“We will continue to promote the use of evidence-based best practices in suicide prevention,” said Russ Wheatley, Community Suicide Prevention co-chair. “We will provide training to individuals who will train additional local people in the use of programs such as Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training.”

Because of Community Suicide Prevention’s status as a nonprofit, Wheatley tells the volunteer organization relies solely on community support and fundraising events. One of those fundraisers is the fourth annual Play For Life golf scramble.

The golf scramble is June 8 at The Waterfront at Snake River Landing in Idaho Falls, and is open to anyone who wants to support the organization’s mission.

Last year’s proceeds helped SPAN Idaho provide a dinner to a group of suicide survivors like Murdock.

“When you are a survivor of suicide loss, little things like that mean a lot,” Wheatley said.

He says they are constantly looking for those to help the organization. Community members can also share their ideas on how to reduce suicide in the area during the group’s monthly meetings.

“We just need to listen, one person at a time,” Murdock said.

To learn more, visit the organization’s Facebook page.