SIOUX FALLS, SD -
After years of declining, nationwide suicide rates are rising.
In South Dakota suicide is the second leading cause of death among teens and young adults.
Jerry Cook has very few memories of his father.
"I have memories from when I was two or 2 and a half," Cook said.
Cook lost his dad to suicide just a couple weeks before his fifth birthday.
"He actually passed away in the house we lived in. It was in the morning. My mom, sister and myself were there. I'll never forget that day," Cook said.
Cook has now turned his grief into working to prevent future suicide deaths. He's a volunteer at the Helpline Center. He helps educate others about the warning signs of suicide.
"It's very easy for us to get an appendix fixed, but when there's things in your head that are going on, you need to reach out for extra help. Sometimes it's not as obvious as what you need, so get to the people who can help," Cook said.
Some of the warning signs include making direct statements, like talking about suicide. They also might say indirect things like, "I can't do this anymore." Other warning signs are feeling hopeless, helpless or a burden on someone. Also watch out for a change in personality or habits, like eating or sleeping less or more.
The problem is many people don't know what to do if they think someone might be at risk for suicide. Officials with the Helpline Center say just talk to your loved one and listen.
"You definitely need to ask them about it and ask them directly about suicide--'Are you thinking about killing yourself? Are you thinking about suicide?'" Helpline Center Suicide & Crisis Support Director Lori Montis said.
Because as Cook knows, it's a conversation that would be worth your time. Even though his dad died decades ago, he still thinks about his father on a regular basis.
"If you do good in school or when you graduate or get your first job or have kids, there's huge events in your life that's great to have your parent there, so I think about that a lot," Cook said.
If you're thinking about suicide, you can get help by calling the Helpline Center at 211 or 1-800-273-TALK.
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