Juneau County's Teenagers of Today: Suicide Prevention in Juneau County

by Becca Bruss - Teen Reporter

Last year, there were a total of eight suicides in Juneau County and just as Linda Mitchel-May, the Juneau County coroner, feared, the total is higher for 2017, with just one month left of the year the total is already at nine. With the recent suicides that have occurred in Juneau County, I wanted to talk about the ways people in Juneau County could find the help locally that they or a loved one may need.

I spoke with Linda and asked her a few questions about the suicides here in Juneau County, what the main reasons were for them, and ways people can get help—whether it be for them or for a friend/family member. She explained to me that a lot of the suicides in Juneau County are due to mental health issues. Linda stated, “I think mental health is a huge problem in this area.” She also explained to me some of the warning signs to look for, including, isolation—where a person may avoid certain activities that involve being around people—and a person who may suddenly be into drinking and drugs.

Linda is an active member of the Juneau County Suicide Prevention Coalition. The coalition has meetings once a month, anybody is welcome to come. The Juneau County Suicide Prevention Coalition has been around for three years now. Their vision statement is “A Suicide free community where people will recognize the warning signs, intervene, and help individuals find hope.” They have two annual events, the Suicide Prevention Walk and Survivors Night. Linda also discussed about a possible need for a community center here in Juneau County where people could come as they please or call to talk with people without the fear or worry of stigma. When she was in college, they had a women's center, a type of “safe zone” where people could call up and make appointments.

Linda suggested I should talk to Scott Ethun at the Juneau County Department of Human Services to find out how Juneau County residents can seek help. Scott told me a little about what they do there, and the many different ways they help the people who need it most. The Department of Human Services works closely with Inner Visions and Pine Valley. Scott also informed me that October and November, and March and April are the months they receive the most calls and help at least 200-300 people. When people call, they get through to their access unit, and that's where they can find the help they need.

I also was able to speak with two of the Juneau County Department of Human Services access unit crisis workers, Pat Morris and Amy Stuettgen. They explained to me about their job and how they are available 24/7, 365 days a year. Their jobs include answering the phones when people call and finding them the appropriate help they need, whether it's just talking to them or getting them into contact with a local therapist. I asked them when they feel it is best for a person to intervene with someone who may be depressed or making suicidal statements, and Pat said, “I always tell them if they have any questions that they should follow through with trying to get them help.” She went on to state, “Don't wait, if there's any question at all about the sincerity of that person; you want to try to address it and get them the help that they could possibly need.” They explained about the fear that many people have with reaching out to human services since they work so closely with Child Protective Services, but Pat stated, “It actually takes a lot to take a child from someone's home, and it is not our goal to do that. Our goal is to help when someone needs it.”

Anybody can contact the Juneau County Department of Human Services Crisis Line, 8:00AM to 4:30PM by calling (608) 847-2400 and ask to speak to a crisis worker. After hours, they can be reached at (608) 847-6161. Do not hesitate to call if you witness someone acting isolated or suicidal. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-

800-273-8255, or text “HOPELINE” to 741741.

Editor’s note: If you know of a teen in Juneau County who

should receive some recognition for their good deeds, please

contact us at: themessenger@centurytel.net. We will pass on

the information to Becca!