Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Dakota Wesleyan University will provide a free concert Friday during Blue & White Days.
“Menagé à Musique,” a showcase for the Ron and Sheilah Gates Department of Music, will begin at 7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 19, in the East Main Dining Room on campus. This concert is free and open to the public.
It will be the first concert for the DWU music program and will celebrate the department’s new patrons, Ron and Sheilah Gates, of Mitchell.
Groups performing include the Highlanders, the Wesleyan Bells, the Singing Scotchmen, and the Women’s Chamber Ensemble. A strings ensemble will also perform a piece.
Individuals performing are Abby Carpenter, Canton; Lacey Reimnitz, Corsica; Kurt Schwarzenbart, Salem; Nate Collins, Belle Fouche; and Lisa Stanley, Box Elder.
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Trae Bergh, a member of the Dakota Wesleyan University men’s basketball team, is the 2014 recipient of the Emil S. Liston Award, it was announced Monday.
The honor is given annually to student athletes in their junior year has been presented each year since 1950 to one men’s and one women’s NAIA basketball player. The award, which is presented by Daktronics, recognizes academic and athletic excellence and includes a $1,000 scholarship to each winner. The award is named in honor of the NAIA’s first executive secretary and a prime mover behind the NAIA men’s basketball tournament. The 2014 women’s winner is Dana Heegemann from Stephens College (Mo.)
“I am extremely proud of Trae for this achievement,” DWU men’s basketball coach Matt Wilber said. “We are lucky to have him in our program and at our school. He represents DWU in the highest manner and is a tremendous teammate in all aspects. Trae is very deserving of this award, but it will not change anything about him. He will continue to put forth the same effort in the classroom, in our community, and on the court as he has always done.”
On the court for the Tigers in the 2013-14 season, Bergh provided stability from the outside. He tied the DWU school record for 3-pointers in a game with 10 in a 43-point performance in the season opener for the Tigers. He finished his sophomore season third in the NAIA in 3-pointers with 3.48 per game, while averaging 16.6 from his shooting guard position and earned All-Great Plains Athletic Conference Second Team honors.
In the classroom, Bergh holds a 4.0 grade point average and is studying athletic training. He has been assisting with the DWU women’s soccer training staff in 2014.
“It’s nice to receive an award like this because it’s not about just basketball,” Bergh said. “Something my parents preached since I was a foot tall, is when you live in a small town you are not just seen on the basketball court and it’s important to work hard and set an example in the community. It’s great to get noticed for all the hard work.”
Bergh is from Crooks, S.D. and attended Tri-Valley High School prior to coming to DWU. He is the son of Troy and Cyndi Bergh.
Monday, September 15, 2014
In celebration of the 227th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution, Dakota Wesleyan University will host a special public viewing of “Created Equal,” the third installment of the PBS series “Constitution USA” from noon to 1 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 17, in Java City in the McGovern Library.
This approximately one-hour documentary explores the constitutional dimensions of contemporary civil rights issues. This event is free and open to the public.
Sunday, September 14, 2014
Dakota Wesleyan University crowned its 2014 homecoming king and queen Sunday during coronation.
This year’s king and queen are Cassie Landgaard, Worthington, Minn., and Kyle Gerlach, Mount Vernon.
Cassie Landgaard, Worthington, Minn., is double-majoring in athletic training and biology. She is the president of CHAOS (science) Club, president of the Athletic Training Club, serves on the student leadership council for the Mid-America Athletic Training Association, and is a DWU student ambassador. Following graduation, she plans to work with an athletic trainer and/or an EMT before applying for physician’s assistant school. She is the daughter of John and Jodi Landgaard and a graduate of Worthington High School.
Kyle Gerlach, Mount Vernon, is majoring in business administration and minoring in coaching. He is a member of DWU wrestling, the campus worship team, and is a resident assistant. He is the son of Jeff and Donna Gerlach and a graduate of Mount Vernon High School.
Additional homecoming queen candidates were: Celeste Beck, Sioux Falls; Abigail Fossum, Canton; Lexy Timm, Yale; and Katie Uttecht, Norfolk, Neb.
Additional homecoming king candidates were: Luke Bamberg, Corsica; Andrew DeVaney, Sioux Falls; Stephen Lee, Viborg; and Jared Stearns, Canton.
Blue & White Days will kick off Thursday with the Opperman Lecture at 11 a.m. in the Sherman Center; the groundbreaking for the Sports and Wellness Complex at 5 p.m. on site, across the football practice fields on the south side of Norway Avenue; and the annual Legacy Banquet at 6:30 p.m. in the Sherman Center. The Blue & White Days parade is set for 10 a.m., Saturday, on Main Street, followed by the Outkasts Car Show. The theme for this year’s homecoming parade is “Rise of the Roaring Empire.” For more information about this week’s events, visit www.dwu.edu.
From left to right, back row: Jared Stearns, Andrew DeVaney, Stephen Lee, Luke Bamberg, and Kyle Gerlach. Front row: Abby Fossum, Lexy Timm, Katie Uttecht, Celeste Beck, and Cassie Landgaard.
Thursday, September 11, 2014
This year’s Legacy Banquet at Dakota Wesleyan University will celebrate all college supporters, as well as bestow special awards to alumni.
The Legacy Banquet will be 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 18, in the Sherman Center. This will follow the 5 p.m. groundbreaking ceremony for the Sports and Wellness Complex the same day.
Awards and recognition will be given to alumni, donors and supporters, including three distinguished alumni awards. Receiving distinguished alumni awards this year are Jon Kreamelmeyer, from the College of Leadership and Public Service; Karen Erickson Lantz, from the College of Arts and Humanities; and Gale Kleven, from the Donna Starr Christen College of Healthcare, Fitness and Sciences.
Karen Erickson Lantz ’65 will receive the Distinguished Alumni Award from the College of Arts and Humanities.
Lantz has been a music teacher, businesswoman and family advocate in Africa.
Lantz, originally of Reliance, is a 1965 Dakota Wesleyan University graduate with a major in music and minors in Spanish and education. Music was an integral part of her formative years, and she and her sisters were blessed with perfect pitch, thus catching the attention of Dr. William Kugel, Dakota Wesleyan’s professor of music, who later visited their humble farmhouse to recruit all three sisters to attend DWU and sing in the choir.
She began her career teaching music lessons in Reliance, Presho and New Underwood, and she later took classes at Black Hills State University and pursued a successful career in business.
Lantz began her business ventures as an owner and broker at Flack-Hoffman Realtors Inc. from 1978 to 1987. She organized stock market investment clubs with 50 friends in 1995 and 1999, and has been the president and CEO of United Methodist First Choice Federal Credit Union, serving United Methodists in South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota since 1987. She also became a commercial loan officer in order to transact church real estate loans for the credit union.
Lantz began the nonprofit Help Orphans and Widows (HOW) in 2006 with the help of two friends after she travelled to Uganda, Africa, to visit her son who is a missionary for the Independent Baptist Church in Uganda.
“I observed the dire poverty of widows and their children,” she said. “I thought I might be able to do something for these women, and if I turned my back on them, it would be a sin of omission.”
Through HOW, 105 widowed families have received Anglo-Nubian dairy goats. The goats offer a source of milk and economic stability to these families because tradition in Uganda dictates that when a husband dies, his wife is not allowed to inherit his property, leaving widows and children in dire straits. Through HOW, widows have proven entrepreneurial; some of them have raised several goats per year, selling one for the equivalent of a year’s income. Others have used them to pay hospital bills, buy larger livestock, like cows, or even for a son’s bride price for marriage. Two women purchased their own land. HOW has also secured the services of a veterinarian to check on the animals and train the widows.
Lantz will return to Uganda in October to give 20 more goats to those in need.
When not volunteering for HOW, Lantz serves as church choir director and musician for several churches, currently the Rapid City UMC. She has composed sacred choral music with 24 registered copyrights, and she authored and composed a full-length Christmas musical. She has also mentored a handicapped adult since 2013.
She has two adult married sons and seven grandchildren.
Jon Kreamelmeyer’ 70 will receive the Distinguished Alumni Award from the College of Leadership and Public Service.
Kreamelmeyer’s passion for skiing took him from the slopes of Colorado to guiding a visually impaired skier who won a bronze medal in the Paralympics in Norway.
He grew up skiing in Colorado but came to Dakota Wesleyan University as a wrestler, graduating in 1970 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, education and psychology.
After graduation, he turned to coaching – coaching in life and coaching in sports. Kreamelmeyer was a life coach before the term was coined; he spent three decades coaching, teaching and working with at-risk youth in Colorado’s Summit County High School, retiring in 1999.
He took the job as the U.S. Ski Team’s disabled cross-country skiing head coach in 1999, although he had been part of the staff since the early ’90s, serving as a guide for blind athletes.
He originally joined the U.S. Disabled Ski Team as a guide for Michele Drolet, the first American woman to earn a Paralympic cross-country ski medal (bronze, ’94 in Lillehammer, Norway). As acting head coach at the 1998 Paralympics, he saw U.S. skiers collect two bronze medals. At the 2000 World Championships, the team came home with a USA-record eight medals. At Soldier Hollow in 2002, U.S. skiers earned five Paralympic medals, including the first relay medal for U.S. athletes. The team earned three more podiums in Torino in 2006. Kreamelmeyer shifted positions in 2009 to cross-country development coach in order to help produce future athletes for the sport. He retired from the U.S. Ski Team in 2011 but continues to serve as a technical classifier for the International Paralympic Committee.
During his tenure with the U.S. Paralympic team, he was selected as Coach of the Year by the U.S. Olympic Committee in 2000, and in 2014 he was inducted into the Visa International Paralympic Hall of Fame during the Paralympics in Sochi, Russia.
In addition to teaching and coaching, he served from 1996 to 2003 on the Frisco, Colo., town council. He was elected to the Summit School District Board of Education in 2003 and served until 2011. He also had appointments of vice president and president.
Presently, he continues to teach skiing and is a volunteer coach with the local youth ski club.
He and his wife, Claudia, have three adult children: Gabriel, Joshua and Ali.
Gale Kleven ’98 will receive the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Donna Starr Christen College of Healthcare, Fitness and Sciences.
Kleven has spent the past decade pushing the boundaries in the fields of neuroscience and neurobehavioral development. The result has been a successful career in research and teaching.
She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology at Dakota Wesleyan University in 1998, where she also received the Bonnie J. Messer Award for outstanding work in psychology and the Earl A. Roadman Medal in sociology, among other awards.
In 2005, she received her Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Iowa, Iowa City, after study in UI’s Laboratory of Comparative Ethogenesis. Published work from her dissertation, “Patterns of Early Behavioral Development After Exposure to a Prototypical Neurotoxin Methylazoxymethanol (MAM),” was the first experimental demonstration of the sensitivity of behavioral measures to detect low-dose toxin exposure in the developing fetus.
She received her postdoctoral training in the Laboratory of Perinatal Neurobiology and Behavior at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, N.C., from 2005 to 2009. In her postdoctoral work, Kleven developed innovative imaging techniques, including behavioral observation of the mouse fetus using high-resolution ultrasound and MRI spectroscopy quantification of brain metabolites in juvenile and adult mice. She received a prestigious Pathway to Independence Award from the National Institute of Nursing Research for her current work studying the bio-behavioral pathways in the fetal basis of adult disease.
She became an assistant professor at Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio, in the behavioral neuroscience area of the psychology department in 2009, where she is currently involved in an active program of research and teaching.
Her research focuses on the prenatal origins, assessment and diagnosis of developmental disabilities as well as the behavioral pathways implicated in the fetal basis of adult disease. Kleven is currently on the advisory board of the NIH GRAD-PREP program in the Boonshoft School of Medicine Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, serves as treasurer for the International Society of Developmental Psychobiology, and is a reviewer for several research journals.
She has presented at 10 national and international conferences, and 10 institutional and regional research symposiums. She has also won numerous awards, authored and co-authored nine published pieces in scientific journals and has several in review. She won two dissertation awards, two research awards and five NIH conference travel awards.
Kleven has four children: Gabe, Ben, Steve and Donna.
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Dakota Wesleyan University is again experiencing record enrollment.
DWU’s enrollment for the 2014 fall semester topped last year’s record by two students with a fall enrollment of 875.
“There are many exciting things occurring at Dakota Wesleyan, and that excitement is attractive to new and current students,” said President Amy Novak.
Novak also pointed out that DWU’s online programs have helped to reach new markets, a key to success in a rural area where traditional-aged students are declining.
“Our online nursing degree has been very popular, and we’re also reaching new adult students in our master’s programs,” she said. “I also expect our online bachelor’s degree, essentially a completion program for those with an associate’s degree, is going to be popular when it begins this winter.”
In addition to the M.B.A. and nursing degree completion, DWU added an online M.A. in education with several tracks, including STEM instruction. The new degree completion program will emphasize organizational leadership.
Efforts at retention are also playing a part in the student population.
“We have made huge efforts in the past several years to bring our retention rate up and keep our current students wanting to return each year,” said Diana Goldammer, director of student life. “This has been accomplished through a campus-wide effort – from increased activities promoting student involvement, to teaching and coaching strategies, to recruiting truly high-caliber students who want to make education a priority.”
New students this year include 148 freshmen, 82 transfer students and 13 students who took classes at DWU, left and returned. Of the new students who have indicated academic interest areas, more than 50 percent chose majors in the Donna Starr Christen College of Healthcare, Fitness and Sciences, which is housed in the year-old Glenda K. Corrigan Health Sciences Center.
“As home to the finest undergraduate scientific research labs in the region, DWU is a logical choice for students pursuing healthcare or wellness-oriented careers,” said Novak. “The addition of our new sports and wellness complex should add to the draw in future years.”
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Candidates for homecoming king and queen have been selected at Dakota Wesleyan University
Coronation will be at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 14, in the Sherman Center. The theme for this year’s homecoming is “Rise of the Roaring Empire.”
Homecoming queen candidates are:
Celeste Beck, Sioux Falls. Beck is a biology major, minoring in business. She is a member of the DWU women’s basketball team. After graduation she plans to join the military and specialize in a medical field. Beck is the daughter of Brandon and Anita Beck and graduate of Roosevelt High School.
Abigail Fossum, Canton. Fossum is an athletic training major at DWU. She is a member of the track and field team, Athletic Training Club and Campus Ministry, is a resident assistant and also a Sunday school teacher for Fusion. After graduation she plans to get a doctorate in physical therapy and will also be married to her fiancé, Jared Stearns, this spring. She is the daughter of Rick and Jean Fossum and a graduate of Canton High School.
Cassie Landgaard, Worthington, Minn. Landgaard is double-majoring in athletic training and biology. She is the president of CHAOS (science) Club, president of the Athletic Training Club, serves on the student leadership council for the Mid-America Athletic Training Association, and is a DWU student ambassador. Following graduation, she plans to work with an athletic trainer and/or an EMT before applying for physician’s assistant school. She is the daughter of John and Jodi Landgaard and a graduate of Worthington High School.
Lexy Timm, Yale. Timm is an elementary education major. She is a TRiO peer mentor, TRiO peer tutor, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Future Teachers Organization, and serves as the community relations representative for the Human Services Club. She hopes to stay in South Dakota to teach and eventually pursue a master’s degree. She is the daughter of Bill and Carleen Timm and a graduate of Iroquois High School.
Katie Uttecht, Norfolk, Neb. Uttecht is an elementary education major at DWU. She is the secretary of Future Teachers Organization, a member of the DWU University/Community Band, Wesleyan Choir, Theatre Club, and Rotoract. She plans to pursue a career in teaching after graduation. She is the daughter of Randy and Tammy Uttecht and a graduate of Lutheran High Northeast, Norfolk.
Homecoming king candidates are:
Luke Bamberg, Corsica. Bamberg is a business major, minoring in coaching at DWU. He is a member of the DWU men’s basketball team. Following graduation he hopes to pursue business and coaching in the area. He is the son of Robert and Brenda Bamberg and a graduate of Corsica High School.
Andrew DeVaney, Sioux Falls. DeVaney is a religious studies major at DWU, minoring in individualized education. He is a member of the Student Ministry Council, is a resident assistant, and former member of DWU football. After graduation, he plans to enter seminary school. He is the son of Andrea Kuehn and a graduate of Sioux Falls Christian School.
Kyle Gerlach, Mount Vernon. Gerlach is majoring in business administration and minoring in coaching. He is a member of DWU wrestling, the campus worship team, and is a resident assistant. He is the son of Jeff and Donna Gerlach and a graduate of Mount Vernon High School.
Stephen Lee, Viborg. Lee is an elementary education major and a member of the DWU men’s basketball team and Future Teachers Organization. He will pursue a career in teaching following graduation. Lee is the son of Troy and Amy Lee and graduate of Viborg Public High School.
Jared Stearns, Canton. Stearns is majoring in accounting and minoring in legal studies. He is a member of Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization and Campus Ministry, and is also a resident assistant and works as an intern at Trail King Industries. He plans to pursue a career as an accountant following graduation, as well as getting married to his fiancé Abby Fossum. He is the son of Craig and Lee Stearns and graduate of Canton High School.
For a complete list of homecoming events, click here for alumni and here for students.
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Dakota Wesleyan University will celebrate Blue & White Days next week with three days of activities for the community and alumni.
This year’s focus is on “30 Years of Randall Scholars.” The Randall Scholarship is the most prestigious academic scholarship that DWU offers to incoming freshmen and a reunion is set from 4 to 6 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 20, with a program at 5 p.m., in the Glenda K. Corrigan Health Sciences Center. Preregistration is required.
Thursday, Sept. 18
Thursday is the official kick-off to Blue & White Days with the Opperman Lecture at 11 a.m., the Sports and Wellness Complex groundbreaking at 5 p.m., and the Legacy Banquet at 6:30 p.m.
The Opperman Lecture, to be given by Jon Kreamelmeyer ’70, will be about his experiences while working as a guide and coach for the U.S. Disabled Ski Team. “Skiing, Service and Success: Lessons from the Slope” will be at 11 a.m. in the Sherman Center. This event is free and open to the public.
DWU will also celebrate the groundbreaking of its $10 million Sports and Wellness Complex during a special ceremony at 5 p.m. at the site of the new building, on the south side of Norway Avenue, across from the football practice fields and L.B. Williams Elementary School.
Attendees may park along Norway Avenue, as well as in the parking lots near the McGovern Library and the Corrigan Health Sciences Center. DWU will provide a shuttle service from the parking lots to the groundbreaking site beginning at 4:30 p.m.
Thursday’s events will culminate with the Legacy Banquet at 6:30 p.m. in the Sherman Center. This ceremony is by reservation-only and serves as the university’s opportunity to thank donors, supporters and alumni for their service and generosity throughout the year. Three distinguished alumni will be recognized as well: Jon Kreamelmeyer ’70 from the College of Leadership and Public Service; Karen Erickson Lantz ’65, from the College of Arts and Humanities; and Gale Kleven ’98 from the Donna Starr Christen College of Healthcare, Fitness and Sciences.
Friday, Sept. 19
Campus tours will be available beginning at 10:30 a.m. at Java City, the café in the McGovern Library. All are welcome to join in the guided tour of campus.
The men’s golf GPAC Qualifier No. 1 will begin at noon at Wild Oak Golf Course, for anyone who wishes to support Tiger golf.
Friday evening will also be an informal all-class alumni gathering at Blarney’s. For more information, contact Jackie Wentworth, director of alumni relations, at 995-2151.
Also Friday, the Ron and Sheilah Gates Department of Music at DWU will perform a showcase, “Ménage a Musiqué,” at 7 p.m. in the East Main Dining Room in upper Rollins Campus Center. This will be an hour-long showcase including one to two selections from the Highlanders, Wesleyan Bells, Women’s Chamber Choir, Singing Scotchmen, and LyricWood Strings, as well as student and faculty vocal, piano and string soloists. This concert is free and open to the public.
Saturday, Sept. 20
The Blue & White Days parade will begin at 10 a.m. on Main Street. This year’s theme is “Rise of a Roaring Empire” and Garry Gjesdal, of Plankinton, will be the parade’s grand marshal. Alumni are welcome at the All-Class Alumni Tent beginning at 9:30 a.m. in the CorTrust Bank Parking lot, one block north of the Corn Palace. The parade will also include the Outkast Car Show entries.
Also at 10 a.m. is the Cross Country Invitational at Wild Oak Golf Course.
Following the parade will be the pregame tailgate at 11:30 a.m. at Joe Quintal Field. DWU Tigers take on Northwestern College at 1 p.m. at Joe Quintal. Later in the afternoon, the women’s and men’s soccer teams play Nebraska Wesleyan at 3 and 5:30 p.m. at the Pepsi-Cola Soccer Complex.
In addition to the Randall Scholarship reunion, there will be class reunions for the classes of 1971-74 at 6:30 p.m., at Café Teresa; the Class of 1964 Golden Reunion at 6:30 p.m., at Chef Louie’s; and the Class of 1989 at 6:30 p.m. at Blarney’s. All reunions require preregistration, contact Wentworth to secure a spot.
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Dakota Wesleyan University will host a forum with candidates running for the South Dakota seat in the U.S. Senate at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 30, at the Sherman Center on campus.
DWU’s McGovern Center is partnering with the Daily Republic to bring the candidates to campus for what has been named the McGovern Civic Engagement Forum, in honor of the late Sen. George McGovern. The forum is open to the public.
The three candidates who have committed to the forum are businessman Rick Weiland, the Democratic nominee; former Republican State Sen. Gordon Howie, running as an Independent; and former Republican U.S. Sen. Larry Pressler, also running as an Independent.
The election for the Senator seat is Nov. 4. Incumbent Sen. Tim Johnson-D, who served as U.S. Senator since 1997, and before that in Congress from 1987-1997, is retiring.
J.P. Skelly, news director at KQRN radio station in Mitchell, will moderate the forum which will feature a panel of DWU students. Although candidates will have an opportunity to address issues of importance for this election, questions will focus on candidates’ motives for engaging in politics, and their thoughts on the democratic process. The community is invited to submit questions to ask the candidates. Questions may be emailed to Alisha Vincent, McGovern Center director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“McGovern was a passionate advocate for civil discourse,” Vincent said. “We believe in encouraging civic engagement among our students and believe that offering the opportunity to participate in a candidate forum is a great way to do this.”
As part of the desire to get more young adults involved in this event, DWU and the Daily Republic are encouraging area high schools to send students.
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
It’s the seven-letter word that gets misunderstood, stereotyped and oftentimes barely spoken above a whisper.
The very mention of the word, its sight in print, or memory of someone who died, evokes emotional responses ranging from sadness to pity to fear to grief and a myriad of others.
Dr. Anne Kelly, professor of psychology at Dakota Wesleyan University, is conducting research on suicide with the aim of improving prevention efforts, and she hopes to one day destigmatize suicide, as well as its contributing causes.
Kelly is a psychological autopsy investigator, certified through the American Association of Suicidology in Washington, D.C. Kelly’s certification was funded by the Mitchell Area Suicide Prevention Taskforce and DWU professional development. The A.A.S. reports that Kelly is the only psychological autopsy investigator certified with them in South Dakota; there are a total of 15 in the U.S. and one in South Korea, making that 16 worldwide – though there are other certification programs.
“The job of a psychological autopsy investigator is to understand the mental state of the victim at the time of the attempt and identify long-term and short-term factors leading up to the attempt, to the extent that either is possible. We also work to clarify the motive of death in cases where the cause isn't clear,” Kelly said. “Was it natural causes, an accident, suicide or homicide? Sometimes the cause is ambiguous. We would call that an equivocal death. Psychological autopsy investigators clarify mode, too – how they did it – and work with law enforcement pretty regularly.
“Sometimes it’s a matter of proving that a suspected suicide wasn’t a suicide, and we do that by looking at behavior, medical records – police reports, toxicology screens – and investigating everything we have available to us up to the point of death.”
A psychological autopsy investigator can be brought into a case by law enforcement or by a family member.
“My interest in researching suicide victims is to find psychological indicators that could help identify potential victims. If we know more about what to look for, then we can offer help,” Kelly said. “The only way to know more about who might consider suicide is by studying those who have already completed it, which is where my research begins.
“I want to be clear that I do not judge or disparage the victim or the family – I see and treat the victims like the human beings they are,” she added. “Through this tragedy, we might find answers. Families and friends of suicide victims are critical to this work. In fact, we very much depend on their help to better understand what is happening at the time of a suicide so that we can strengthen prevention and intervention efforts. Suicide is considered the most preventable public health problem. When families, psychological autopsy investigators, counselors, law enforcement, and others in our community work together, we really are in a great position to do something about suicide.”
Suicide is a result of mental illness, but having mental illness does not mean a person will even contemplate suicide in his or her lifetime. Some people show signs of depression or anger or self-loathing and never consider it, Kelly points out.
“Some suicide victims are the outward picture of mental health,” she said.
Those inconsistencies are what make suicide so difficult to understand, and many who have lost someone to suicide seek to understand motive. Answers are part of the mourning process, but answers also aid in prevention.
“The research I do is about identifying groups most at risk and then identifying what those indicators are so we can look for them in individuals as well as other groups,” she said. “The goal is to create a community where we reduce risk factors.”
Considering risk factors
Self-medication is sometimes a sign that a chemical imbalance is in play.
“Self-medication with drugs or alcohol, or even eating disorders, are used to neutralize what you’re feeling, whether it’s starving yourself or over-eating,” Kelly said.
Certain populations are also shown to be more prone to panic disorders, such as veterans, female physicians and the aging. Risk factors are also dependent on geography.
“There is considerable evidence indicating that suicide rates are higher in rural areas, although some recent data indicate that urban and rural rates are similar,” she said. “Suicide risk goes up in rural areas for several reasons, including geographic isolation, economic problems, widespread use of firearms, alcoholism, stigmatization of mental illness, and access to mental health and health services.
“We think because we live in the country, we have this easy-going, stress-free life and we are so far away from crime-ridden cities – we’re safe here,” Kelly said. “The truth is, geographically-isolated areas are at higher risk because many people live miles away from the closest neighbor or hours away from the closest counselor. They feel what they’re feeling and they don’t always have easy access to a support group.”
According to the South Dakota Suicide Prevention website, which gained its information from the South Department of Health, the most recent report in 2011 states that 125 deaths were reported that year attributed to suicide. The site states that this ranks suicide as the ninth-leading cause of death in the state, the second-leading cause for residents ages 1-34 years old.
Looking for solutions
Solutions for rural areas like South Dakota are three-fold: destigmatize mental illness; educate people on what it is to live with mental illness, and provide greater access to mental health facilities – which many communities have tried, but it’s difficult because of lack of funding or personnel, Kelly said.
“And, you can do everything right and it can still happen,” she said. “This is why research is still ongoing.”
Kelly’s research is geared toward taking the stigma out of suicide, depression, mental illness, desperation, grief – especially the idea that “weak” people attempt suicide.
“American culture, especially – we have a tendency to believe we are independent and depression is something we can overcome, and have to overcome, on our own,” Kelly said. “It’s an organic problem, like the flu is organic, but you never criticize or think it’s frivolous for someone to go to the doctor for the flu. No one whispers, ‘Oh my gosh, did you hear she has the flu?’ We have to push past that stereotype, to educate, and create an environment where people aren’t afraid talk about it, to ask for help, to show that they need that help.”
When someone is diagnosed with depression or other mental illness, it’s always important to provide a strong support system – whether it’s driving the person to doctor’s appointments, taking part in group counseling, or maintaining a nonjudgmental attitude toward his or her struggle, she said.
“If you recognize signs in someone, then you are obligated to act,” Kelly said. “But ultimately, the responsibility for the action is on the person who commits it. All the conditions could be met or look like they are being met, the person could seem fine or was getting the right help, everything could seem completely on track, and then still that person attempts, and maybe completes, suicide. We can’t blame ourselves for the actions of others. But we can learn to recognize warning signs, and we can help.”
For anyone who might be interested in information concerning suicide prevention or counseling assistance, South Dakota suicide prevention hotline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255); help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The service is available to anyone and all calls are kept confidential. Websites to visit include: http://sdsuicideprevention.org/.
"We've got a lot of really great people, right here in Mitchell, including counselors, principals, physicians, nurses and pastors, who are working to prevent suicide, and who serve on the Mitchell Area Suicide Prevention Taskforce.”
The DWU campus counselor is available to all students, staff and faculty. Linda Cimpl's office hours are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday-Thursday, or by appointment. Email her a email@example.com or call her office at 995-2896. To set up an appointment with an outside agency please see or call Kris Ehlebracht, Student Life Assistant , 995-2667, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ehlebracht will be happy to help you and will maintain confidentiality. More information about campus counseling can be found here.