What one Boise city councilman says about losing his mother to suicide

TJ Thomson on Suicide Prevention Week

Boise City Councilman T.J. Thomson speaks about losing his mother to suicide and, on a lighter note, explains her tie to Ronald Reagan.
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Boise City Councilman T.J. Thomson speaks about losing his mother to suicide and, on a lighter note, explains her tie to Ronald Reagan.

A nonprofit and a state program have been created in recent years to curb suicide in Idaho, whose suicide rate is the nation’s ninth highest. But experts said Thursday that more must be done.

“Most everyone here has been affected by suicide,” said Nate Fisher, executive director of the Idaho Suicide Prevention Coalition, at a news conference on the steps of Boise’s City Hall to mark National Suicide Prevention Week. “The statistics in Idaho are alarming.”

Idaho’s suicide rate was 46 percent higher than the national average last year.

Boise City Councilman T.J. Thomson spoke of losing his mother to suicide when he was 20. “It hangs with you forever, impacts your life,” he said.

6,000Calls the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline expects to receive this year

60 Volunteers answering calls

24/7Hours the hotline takes calls

This year, the Legislature appropriated nearly $1 million a year for the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline and to create the Suicide Prevention Program within the state Department of Health and Welfare. Kim Kane, manager of the four-person program, thanked lawmakers for “an unprecedented level of support.”

“Together, we will bring a much-needed comprehensive approach to preventing suicide in Idaho than has never before been possible,” she said.

Mayor David Bieter named Sept. 5 through 11 Suicide Prevention Week in the city.

In 2011, Boise lost three-time Olympic skier Jeret “Speedy” Peterson to suicide. His family launched The Speedy Foundation nonprofit to combat suicide. The executive director of the foundation, Shannon Decker, said at the news conference that each person can contribute by volunteering or donating to a suicide prevention organization, or by reaching out to someone needing help.

“There is hope,” she said. “There is help. There is recovery.”

Zach Kyle: 208-377-6464, @IDS_ZachKyle. This story has been corrected. An earlier version misstated the year the Legislature appropriated money for a new suicide-prevention program.


If someone you know is in emotional crisis:

Call the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

Warning signs to watch for:

▪  Talking about wanting to die.

▪  Looking for a way to kill oneself

▪  Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.

▪  Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.

▪  Talking about being a burden to others.

▪  Increasing use of alcohol or drugs.

▪  Acting anxious, agitated or recklessly.

▪  Sleeping too little or too much.

▪  Withdrawing or isolating themselves.

▪  Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.

▪  Extreme mood swings.

Other things you can do to help:

▪  Do not leave the person alone.

▪  Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide.

▪  Listen. Allow expressions of feelings. Accept the feelings.

▪  Be non-judgmental. Don’t debate. Don’t lecture on the value of life.

▪  Don’t act shocked. This will put distance between you.

▪  Don’t be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.

▪  Offer hope that alternatives are available but do not offer glib reassurance.

▪  Take action. Remove means, such as guns or stockpiled pills.

▪  Get help by calling the hotline or visiting Suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

Source: Suicide Prevention Lifeline