sioux falls, sd
A word was omitted in a prior version of this story.
When a person dies by suicide it can be especially difficult for the family and friends left behind. Not only do they have to deal with their grief, but they can also blame themselves.
The situation arises more often than you would think. Early numbers show more people in the Sioux Falls area are seeking help and a local woman is stepping up to help.
Mary Ellen Dirksen had a picture-perfect family growing up. That includes her older brother, Robert, who she says was one of the most caring people she knew.
"If I didn't think anybody else in the world would understand, I knew he would," Dirksen said.
But seven years ago Dirksen's only sibling took his own life.
"What was really hard was that we had been so close when we were younger and I think the fact that we drifted apart a little bit and that I didn't know the extent of which he was struggling," Dirksen said.
Unfortunately, Dirksen's situation it not that unusual. The most recent statistics from the South Dakota Department of Health show that suicide is the ninth leading cause of death in the state. Officials with the Helpline Center saw the problem grow firsthand last month.
"It seemed like call volume-wise was higher. Then a lot of times we get calls when people have lost someone to suicide so we do loss-outreach calls where we'll go out and meet with a family immediately upon notification of a suicide," Helpline Center Suicide & Crisis Support Director Lori Montis said.
"I wish I would have been better educated on the warning signs, and I wish my family had more open communication. My brother was talking to each family member about different aspects about what he was going through," Dirksen said.
Experts say those warning signs can include talking about suicide, being overly focused on death, feelings of hopelessness or helplessness and changes in behavior.
Dirksen, like many others who have lost loved ones to suicide, blamed herself at points and deals with a lot of regrets.
"I just wish I could go back and give him a hug and tell him it's going to be ok. I wish I could do that and I can't," Dirksen said.
One way Dirksen is healing is by volunteering with the Helpline Center.
"The opportunity to come out and raise awareness about mental health issues and the opportunity to educate people and to be involved in an organization that educates people about mental health issues is really healing," Dirksen said.
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, you should seek help immediately. You can call the Helpline Center at 1-800-273-TALK or just 211 in the Sioux Falls area.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: