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National Suicide Prevention Week begins Sunday and mental health professionals in Marshalltown want the public to know the importance of seeking help.

Center Associates Clinical Director Kim Hagen said the week provides an opportunity to bring attention to a growing problem and a topic that is generally not discussed.

“I think suicide is important and the subject is often not discussed. “ Hagen said. “Sometimes I think we have anxiety and fears to discuss such a sensitive topic and so we tend not to bring it up, especially with teenage years and teenagers.”

Having worked for the mental health agency Center Associates for the past 15 years, Hagen has seen a steady increase in the number of patients with suicidal ideation. The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered an even greater surge, with isolation and lack of social engagement causing higher rates of depression, anxiety and substance abuse in many people.

Hagen said the biggest increase is in adolescents and adolescents, with even younger children exhibiting suicidal ideation in response to what she says are sometimes insignificant life stressors.

“It just shows that our children and adolescents are not able to regulate emotionally and engage in positive coping skills in order to be able to deal with the increased stress they have experienced over the past two years,” she said.

Independent Social Chartered With Center Associates In Marshalltown Nick Calzada said the need for mental health support has never been greater.

“Even speaking for myself, my schedule has never been so distant” he said.

Typically sitting around eight weeks full of dates, Calzada said he’s currently almost double, scheduled for the next 12 to 16 weeks. While National Suicide Prevention Week gives a chance to raise awareness, he said he is dealing with suicide week after week.

“It can happen to anyone. Mental health affects us all,” Calzada said. “It doesn’t matter race, gender, it doesn’t matter how much money you make. It can impact any of us. It can impact our family. It can impact our friends.

Over the next year, Hagen said all Center Associates staff will complete suicide risk assessment training.

“We have identified this as a need within our community and among our own staff and so we are working to train all of our clinicians and staff on this issue,” she said.

Whenever a patient experiences suicidal ideation, their therapist will perform a comprehensive risk assessment to identify both risk factors and protective factors.

It’s important to be aware of risk factors and symptoms, Calzada said, so others can encourage anyone who needs help to seek her out so that she is never alone.

Suicide is a symptom of depression, and people need to watch for changes in others or in themselves.

Warning signs may include increased sadness, becoming more emotional or crying for no apparent reason, crying excessively, developing feelings of hopelessness, feeling like things are not going to get better, feeling stuck in a situation. rut, change in appetite, change in sleep patterns by not getting enough or excessive sleep, having low energy levels, or feeling lethargic.

“Suicide may first appear as a crossed thought, such as’ I wish I was dead. I wish I wasn’t there. Life sucks “ Calzada said.

These thoughts can intensify to evolve from a crossing thought to a dwelling thought. The situation is an emergency when thoughts of the home turn into developing a plan and intention with access to follow.

Anyone with suicidal thoughts should seek help, and anyone concerned about someone else can contact a mental health agency for help or questions. Agencies can be contacted for emergency appointments, but for immediate crisis situations, contact the local emergency room or authorities. Hagen said suicidal statements or threats should always be taken seriously.

“This is not something we should overlook or attribute to someone seeking attention” Hagen said.

When a patient is having thoughts of suicide, Calzada always monitors the symptoms of depression at each visit, to see if the symptoms improve, are the same, or worsen with treatment. A safety plan is developed and approved to ensure patient safety and prevent an attempt, which may include agreeing to contact local authorities to perform a wellness check and / or be taken to the emergency room nearest to perform an assessment.

Calzada will also help develop positive coping skills to manage stress and improve mood. These could be to improve sleep hygiene, develop journaling habits, identify additional outlets and supports, and identify people who are more toxic to the patient, encourage l ‘exercise and explore medication if necessary.

Hagen said it’s important to seek help before it’s too late and believes everyone can benefit from therapy.

“Why wouldn’t you benefit from being able to tell someone about everything that’s going on in your life and get objective feedback on how to handle it? We need to work on de-stigmatizing therapy and going to therapy. Someone who seeks help wants to improve. It is not at all a weakness, it is in fact a strength. We should see this as a positive characteristic for everyone in our community ”, Hagen said.

Associates at the Center in Marshalltown can be contacted at 641-752-1585. For those considering suicide or looking for resources for someone else, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255 with more resources available at

Risk factors:

• Personal or family history of self-injurious behavior, suicidal gestures or attempts.

• Problems of domestic violence or abuse.

• Substance or alcohol abuse.

• Mental illness.

• Withdrawal from usual activities, supports or interests.

• Poor problem solving skills.

• Feeling of lack of purpose

• Lack of access to psychiatric care.

Protective factors:

• Strong supportive bonds with friends and family.

• A strong sense of self-worth and self-worth.

• Attitudes, values ​​and norms that prohibit suicide.

• Access to a variety of clinical interventions and supports for seeking help.

• Responsibilities and duties towards others.

• Opportunities to participate and / or contribute to school or community projects or activities.


Contact Trevor Babcock

at 641-753-6611 or

[email protected]

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