‘A piece missing’: Family remembers loved ones who committed suicide as state releases new suicide prevention plan

LINCOLN, Nebraska (Nebraska) – A Nebraska resident dies by suicide every 32 hours. It’s a pain the Smith family of Lincoln knows all too well.

This pain is the motivator for the Nebraska Suicide Prevention Plan.

Jeremy Smith was only 19 years old when he committed suicide. His mom, Tonya, said they didn’t know how many resources were available to help him while he was struggling.

“He was very reserved,” said Cassie, Jeremy’s sister. “He really wasn’t the type to stand in a crowd and talk to a bunch of people. But he was definitely the kind of person who was there when you needed him.”

Jeremy was home from college when he committed suicide. His family describes it as an earthquake that ruined their lives.

“Every bright moment that we have still has, you know, the bittersweetness, you know, it’s always messed up,” Tonya said. “Because a piece is missing, you understand?

National statistics show that from 1999 to 2018, the number of suicides increased by 35%. 80% of suicide deaths in 2020 were in men.

In Nebraska, death by suicide is the second leading cause of death for Nebraska residents aged 10 to 34.

“The most important thing is that you don’t think it’s going to happen to you or anyone close to you until it happens,” Dustin, Jeremy’s brother, said. “And you don’t really know what the history of the people is or what they’re going through at the time.”

The Nebraska Suicide Prevention Plan is designed to empower people to talk about suicide before it happens. Their plan outlines ways to raise awareness about the signs of suicide, creates plans to work with specific cultural groups, and details ways to tackle mental health stigma. The plan also attempts to increase the availability of crisis management services.

“More mental health resources, more, more access to all the other stuff like that,” Quinn Lewandowski said with the group. “More conversations to help reduce stigma and other things. So I think that’s probably the most important thing that’s been talked about when it comes to mental health and how to better connect people to resources by arming people with the skills to talk to friends, family members, colleagues about suicide. and have these honest conversations to help them get out.”

The plan also focused on expanding knowledge about the signs of suicidal thoughts, the 988 lifeline, and how you can help someone in a crisis.

“We truly believe that anyone can save a life from suicide,” said Julia Hbernstrait, executive director of The Kim Foundation.

The Smiths said that the memory of Jeremy is part of their daily lives. Will they see the number 52 or hear their favorite song.

They said they want other families going through this to know that the pain doesn’t go away, but it becomes easier to live with.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, you can call or text 988 24/7.

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