Sending out an S.O.S.

There are some myths about suicide, including only a certain type of person commits suicide, that the chances of suicide can be reduced by avoiding talking about the subject with a suicidal person, that improvement after a suicidal crisis means that the risk is over and that suicidal people are fully intent on dying.


The truth, respectively, is that suicide affects all people of all ages, races, religions and socioeconomic standings; the chances of suicide can be prevented by bringing the subject into the open; many suicides occur within about three months of the beginning of “improvement,” when the individual has the energy to put morbid thoughts and feelings into effect; and most suicidal people are undecided about living or dying and they “gamble” with death, leaving it to others to save them.

All that according to Bob Edwards, who has a doctorate in psychology and counseling and offers counseling, consultation and seminars through his organization called Upward Living.

Also according to Edwards suicide is rampant in the Minot and Williston areas.

“According to the most accurate statistics, we’re running at three and a half times over the national average for suicide in the Minot and Williston area,” Edwards said. He is calling it an epidemic. “It has been established that one in every six people in the Minot area have been indirectly or directly affected by suicide,” he said.

Conversely, since Upward Living is a one-man operation, Edwards said he is currently looking for financial assistance to address the trend of recent suicides in the community and would like to have two more people trained who could help him with his suicide prevention program.

“I’m looking for support and city awareness,” he added.

The program that Edwards teaches for suicide prevention is known as QPR, which stands for Question, Persuade and Respond. It is the standard practice for care in psychology, he said, and he has been involved with it for 17 years. Edwards said he needs about $1,700 per person to train them in the QPR program.

Edwards’ friend Terry Kongelf, owner of The Stereo Shop, said he and Edwards tried to get funding for a suicide prevention program for people affected by suicide. Kongelf donated the office space where Upward Living currently is located, he said, and Edwards set up a credible organization where he could work on some problems he’d noticed with people in the Minot community.

“I had friends and relatives involved in the flood and saw a real problem that would be developing in Minot with displacement,” Kongelf said. “I ran into a high degree of depression and overwhelming situations that I thought would create other problems that would lead to suicide.” People are very reluctant to talk about suicide, though, he noted. “It’s the crisis no one wants to talk about,” he says.

Edwards noted that there has been a focus on repairing the physical part of Minot, but not the emotional or psychological damage done by the flood.

“I picked up on it two years ago and paid attention,” he said, about psychological issues that people may have been experiencing from the flood. “I knew it was coming with the flood and the ingrowth of Minot. A lot of it is financial. We need to be doing a lot more.”

People who are around others with depression need to be aware of the warning signs of suicide and how to respond, Kongelf said. Some warning signs include drug abuse, eating or sleeping disturbances, loss of interest in activities, pessimism toward or feeling hopeless about life and one’s future, talking about suicide and death, isolating oneself from friends or family or giving away possessions.

“The number one cause of suicide is depression,” Edwards said.

The person who will save a suicidal person will most likely be his or her best friend, he added. “Suicidal people don’t want to die, they want hope. We have to continue (QPR) training to provide a safety net for the people of Minot.” People who are interested in the QPR program or would like to contact Edwards can call 852-1170 or send an email to or visit the Upward Living website at ( People who are feeling suicidal should call 9-1-1 or go to the emergency room or seek help.