(Editor’s note: Larry Werner, the director of news for ECM Publishers wrote a column on the topic of suicide that was published last week in the Star News and other ECM publications. Below are the comments that were posted to the Star News website via Facebook.
Werner’s column headlined Can we talk about something important, like suicide? can be viewed at: http://erstarnews.com/2012/08/31/can-we-talk-about-something-important-like-suicide/. Those of you with Facebook accounts can add your comments below the column. Letters to the editor will also be considered for publication.)
Angie King, St. Louis Park, Minnesota:
Larry, thank you for taking the time to write about this and invite feedback. I’m Katie Haines’ cousin, and worked closely on the recent Stomp Out Suicide 5K event. I totally agree with Sean and Katie’s viewpoint that we need to make the topic of suicide less taboo. If we don’t talk about it with kids and young adults, and work to get suicide awareness and prevention programs in our schools, suicide will continue to be the third leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds.
It was interesting to read about the newspaper’s policy of not covering suicide attempts. I’m not sure I agree with this policy. Like you said, it may just be perpetuating the tendency to keep suicide a taboo subject. Would the newspaper decide not to cover an attempted murder because of the same reasons? I think not.
Suicide is a real danger to the youth and adults in our communities. We need to spread awareness so that everyone has the tools to identify when someone needs help, and to encourage those thinking about suicide to seek help. We need to make it clear that diseases of the mind are just as dangerous and require the same expedient care and treatment as cancer or heart disease.
So, thank you again for writing this article and getting the conversation started. We need more coverage such as this.
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Laurie Komnik, Cass Lake, Minnesota:
Well written, Angie!
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Kimberly Brown · University of Minnesota:
Keep up the good work.
Thank you, Larry, for addressing this topic and highlighting the recent Stomp Out Suicide 5K. My daughter was a classmate of Alissa Haines, not a close friend, but more of an acquaintance. It didn’t matter. Not only did my daughter run in the 5K, but so did eight other people on our team. When we were trying to come up with a name, we realized that not only had we been personally touched by the suicide of my sister, but my husband lost a cousin and both of us friends as well. We named our team Running 4 All. We had never ran a 5K. Out of the nine members, three run part time, the other six trained so they would be able to do it!
Support through spreading the experience should also be highlighted. While I was talking with a co-worker about my sister’s suicide, this girl, who is only 19, felt comfortable to share her story of losing her father to suicide as well. When we were done talking, both of us gained something from it and I was glad I had shared it with her.
I also feel I should mention that due to this topic being so “taboo,” both of us had experienced uneducated opinions surrounding our losses that affected us deeply. While I can hold my own in any conversation and try to educate instead of react, I knew my friend wasn’t able to do that and that fed into her decision to share her experience sparingly.
This topic of suicide has many layers. I applaud you for starting this conversation.
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I do think suicides should be covered … but with compassion and dignity! My brother committed suicide 12 years ago and the paper, in the city where he was living at the time, did an article and made it sound like a lazy Sunday afternoon. Reporting on what his neighbors were doing while my brother was fighting for his life! The paper got a few letters to the editor about the cold and callous job the reporter did, as far as I know there has been no apology from the paper.
Suicide is a touchy subject, but a subject that needs to be brought up in order to save lives! Reporters, newspapers and media, NEED to be respectful and compassionate!
Thank you for your article and for wanting our opinion, even after 12 years … it means a lot!
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Sarah Lindstrom Hamlin:
I am currently studying social work and plan to go on to mental health. I think talking about the subject of suicide is very important. Removing the stigma of mental health in general will hopefully encourage people to get the help they need before they reach the end. And, we all know the media can have a huge impact on the way we view things as a society.
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Cindy Elledge, Spring Lake Park Senior High School:
I think that it should be up to the families of the suicide victims whether or not to run any articles in the newspaper about their loved one. Not the newspaper. That being said, I do think that the newspaper should run any article (or advertisement) pertaining to the awareness of suicide.
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