IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - It is a topic Sheila Murdock talks about with passion and purpose. For others, it is a topic they want to avoid.
"Suicide is the new 's' word. S used to be for a word that we didn't talk about and now we are more comfortable, but not suicide. People are not comfortable talking about it," Murdock said.
As a registered nurse, the Idaho Falls mother and grandmother knows how to deal with pain. Dealing with the suicide of her 17-year-old son has taken years to cope with.
"I still cry," she said. "I miss him. I wonder what like would be (if he were still alive)."
Wayne Taylor, Murdock's son, died by suicide on Sept. 9, 1999. That is the same year the National Center for Health Statistics reports a continuous uptick in suicides across the United States. A 2016 report by the center reports between 1999 and 2014, the suicide rate increase by 24-percent.
The death of her son was a trauma Murdock didn't expect. She didn't know anyone who had died by suicide, let alone someone who had made an attempt, prior to her son's death.
"He was very sweet," Murdock said. "He was very kind. He had a lot of friends. Very loyal. He was always doing something for somebody else."
Taylor's suicide took place in South Dakota. The state has the 14th highest suicide rate in the country, according to the South Dakota Department of Health. The numbers are worse in Idaho.
The Suicide Prevention Action Network of Idaho (SPAN) reports Idaho is consistently among the states with the highest suicide rates. In 2015 Idaho had the 5th highest suicide rate, 57-percent higher than the national average. It is the second leading cause of death for Idahoans age 15-34 and for males age 10-14. Many believe those numbers are the result of limited resources.
“We do not have enough resources directed at suicide prevention, especially compared to funding behind other leading causes of death,” Kristin Holland, a behavioral scientist at the Center for Disease Control, told USA Today.
Lack of resources and shame in talking about suicide is why Murdock shares her story.
"If it hasn't affected someone personally, they don't want to think about it or talk about it but when it does, their world caves in and then they go 'Oh, this is important'," Murdock said.
Murdock has dedicated her life to helping others in crisis. She works at the Behavior Health Center in Idaho Falls full-time. She also volunteers with SPAN working to raise awareness about the topic of suicide.
"It's final," Murdock said. "Suicide is final."
She believes talking can save lives.
"It is so extremely important to talk," she said "(Talking) has been shown that it actually saves people's lives. It saves a life if they can just talk about it, but they think that they can't talk about it and they keep it all inside. That is when things just explode inside of them and I can't express it strongly enough. It has saved lives talking about."
Research backs her up. Nine out of 10 people who attempt suicide and survive will not go on to die by suicide, according to a study by the British Journal of Psychiatry. Seventy percent won’t even attempt again.
"Talking saves lives," Murdock stressed.
As a survivor, Murdock wants those who are struggling to talk and to know resources are available. Murdock, in partnership with SPAN, have coordinated several events this week to discuss the topic of suicide. A two-day suicide Prevention Symposium will be held on Thursday and Friday in Pocatello and Idaho Falls, respectively. More information on both can be found by clicking here.
If you, or someone you know is feeling suicidal or depressed, you can call the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. You do not have to be suicidal call. The hotline is staffed with trained crisis specialists 24/7/365. If you know someone who is suicidal, Murdock encourages you to tell someone.
"You don't have to be the one to help them," Murdock said. "You don't have to know the answers."