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Local woman uses suicide struggle to help others

Renee Cook is helping people who struggle with suicidal thoughts after her own struggle.

Whenever Renee Cook answers the suicide hotline at the Crisis Center in Bristol, she remembers her own experience. She was suicidal after a childhood of abuse.

"I didn't know who I was,” Cook said. “I didn't have any hope, and I was completely overwhelmed.”

Cook says she usually helps people in crisis by reminding them of the things they enjoy. She says when a person is overwhelmed, focusing on the small things helps most. Her office is decorated with reminders of her “small things,” encouraging words, purple – her color of strength – and a photo of her and her sister when they were little.

Cook and other staff suggest helping your loved one simply by asking them if they are struggling with suicidal thoughts.

“It's important for people that are hurting to know that you can ask them about it,” said Emily Anne Thompson, Community Educator at the Crisis Center. “Because once you do, it takes this huge burden off. ‘Oh my gosh somebody noticed!’"

Kristy Tipton with Frontier Health says the most important thing to do when answering the phone for someone who needs suicide help is to make them feel heard. Tipton answers a suicide hotline every day. She said the best step for prevention is removing any items that can be used for it.

“Locking up guns, locking up medications. If you have someone in your household that cuts, locking up the knives. Just being very aware of your surroundings that could be a means to hurt someone,” Tipton said.

Now recovered, Cook is helping others see light in what may look like a hopeless situation.

"Anything that you go through and you conquer and you come out on the other side, help somebody else that going through that thing, help them, tell them how you got through it,” she said.

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