Family remembers loved one lost to suicide as Nebraska releases new suicide prevention plan

A Nebraskan dies by suicide every 32 hours. It’s a pain that the Smith family of Lincoln knows all too well.
Published: Feb. 13, 2023 at 3:50 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - A Nebraskan dies by suicide every 32 hours. It’s a pain that the Smith family of Lincoln knows all too well.

That pain is a motivator for the State of Nebraska’s Suicide Prevention Plan.

Jeremy Smith was just 19 when he died by suicide. His mom, Tonia, said they didn’t know how many resources were available to help him while he was struggling.

“He was very reserved,” said Cassie, Jeremy’s sister. “He really wasn’t the person to be out in the crowd and talk to a bunch of people. But he was definitely the kind of person that was there when you needed him.”

Jeremy was home from college when he died by suicide. His family describes it as an earthquake that devastated their lives.

“Every bright moment that we have, still has, you know, the bittersweetness, you know, that it’s always tainted,” Tonia said. “Because there’s a piece missing, you know?”

National statistics show there has been a 35% increase in suicides from 1999 to 2018. 80% of suicide deaths in 2020 were males.

In Nebraska, death by suicide is the #2 leading cause of death for Nebraskans aged 10 to 34.

“The biggest thing is you don’t think it’s going to happen to you or anyone close to you until it does,” said Dustin, Jeremy’s brother. “And you really don’t know what people’s story is or what they’re going through at that time.”

Nebraska’s Suicide Prevention Plan is designed to empower people to talk about suicide before it happens. Their plan lays out ways to increase awareness of signs of suicide, creates plans to reach out to specific cultural groups and details ways to fight the stigma of mental health. The plan is also trying to increase the availability of crisis management services.

“More mental health resources, more, more access in all sorts of other things in that nature,” said Quinn Lewandowski with the group. “More conversations to help reduce stigma and other things. So I think that’s probably the biggest thing that was talked about of talking about mental health as well as better connecting people to resources, equipping people with, with the skills to talk to their friends, their family members, their co-workers, about suicide, and have those honest conversations to help get them out.”

The plan, also really focused on increasing knowledge of the signs of suicidal thoughts, of the 988 lifeline, and how you can help someone in crisis.

“We truly believe that anybody can save a life from suicide,” said Julia Hebenstreit, Executive Director of The Kim Foundation.

The Smiths said remembering Jeremy is a part of their everyday lives. Whether they see the number 52 or hear a favorite song.

They said they want other families experiencing this to know, the pain doesn’t go away but it does get easier to live with.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, you can call or text 988 24/7.