Published on September 06, 2022

Avera Launches ‘Ask the Question’ Campaign for Suicide Prevention

During September, which is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month, Avera is launching a campaign centered around the theme, “Ask the Question.”

“Asking the question” can be a critical starting point to offer help when someone shows warning signs of suicide.

“Even before the pandemic, suicide, opioid abuse and drug overdose were already epidemics of concern in our society. The isolation and troubles of the pandemic just added to the stressors,” said Matthew Stanley, DO, Avera Clinical Vice President for Behavioral Health. “Yet one of the silver linings of the pandemic is that we’re seeing conversations about mental health become more open and honest.”

  • According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the United States.
  • In 2020, 45,979 Americans died by suicide and there were 1.2 million suicide attempts.
  • In 2021, South Dakota Department of Health reported 198 suicide deaths — the highest number since tracking began.
  • South Dakota’s suicide rate is tenth in the nation, Minnesota’s is twelfth, Iowa’s is ninth and Nebraska’s is thirteenth, according to the latest data from AFSP.
  • In a survey conducted by AFSP, 93% of adults surveyed in the United States think suicide can be prevented.

What can make a difference? Asking directly if someone is having thoughts of suicide, in a caring way can help provide hope, change the course of a life and prevent indescribable pain. This question is simply, “Are you thinking about suicide?”

It’s a myth that asking this question will somehow plant a seed in someone’s mind. “People may already have had the thought, yet research tells us that asking the question often provides relief by giving the person an open door to respond honestly,” said Thomas Otten, Assistant Vice President, Avera Behavioral Health Hospital.

Avera encourages the public to speak up and get help if they see the signs that someone might attempt suicide, which include but aren’t limited to:

  • Expressions of hopelessness or feeling trapped
  • Comments about feeling empty or having no reason to live
  • Increase in drug and alcohol use
  • Loss of interest in things they used to enjoy
  • Going through a current crisis or significant life change, such as legal issues or financial problems

Resources are open 24/7 for immediate access:

  • 988 – Call or text the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline for immediate help for you or someone you love.
  • 800-691-4336 – Call this Avera Behavioral Health Urgent Care number to find behavioral health services to fit your needs, whether that’s outpatient or inpatient care.
  • Behavioral Health Urgent Care – If you live in Sioux Falls, go to the Behavioral Health Urgent Care during a mental health crisis.
  • Emergency Department – If you don’t have a specialized urgent care, go to your local emergency department for immediate help.
  • Behavioral Health Navigation – If not in crisis but seeking information on behavioral health services, reach out to Avera Behavioral Health Navigation at 605-322-5142.

“Ask the Question” is an initiative fully funded by generous donors to the Avera Foundation.

“Every life is valuable and everyone can make a difference,” Otten said. “You can make a difference.”

Avera has created helpful tip sheets for information about how to “Ask the Question”, as well as suicide prevention information. Learn more at

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Avera is a health ministry rooted in the Gospel. Our mission is to make a positive impact in the lives and health of persons and communities by providing quality services guided by Christian values.