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Rock Co. groups focus on suicide prevention

Groups try to spread word about resources after losing prominent police officer

JANESVILLE, Wis. - Rock Co. groups focus on suicide prevention

The Rock County community is coming together with a focus on suicide prevention after the death of Milton police Lt. John Conger.

Investigators said the 21-year veteran of the force took his own life this weekend.

The 34-year-old's body was found Sunday night near a bike trail on Janesville's north side.

As authorities try to figure out why this happened, many are working to get the word out on the resources available in hopes of saving lives.

For the last nine years, groups like Yes in Rock County have been working to prevent suicide. Yes stands for Youth Emotional Stability and started off addressing mental health issues in young people. Now it's also starting a support group for family members and close friends left behind.

"Part of awareness and prevention is providing support for those who've been effected by someone who has taken their life or attempted to take their life," said Verlene Orr, chairperson of the Community Coalition.

Chief Deputy Coroner Louis Smit said during a death investigation, they try to go back at least 72 hours in the person's life. Without giving details, he said Conger's case will be handled the same way.

"From the standpoint of it being a high-profile incident or in this case, a friend of ours, of course it's personal and it's difficult. That's why in this case, another agency was brought in," Smit said.

The coroner's office gives presentations several times a week to school, church and community groups about suicide prevention. So far this year, 14 people have taken their lives in the county.

Smit said if someone you know is talking about hurting themselves, take it seriously and try to get them to talk to someone.

"There are mechanisms where you can intervene early on if you think there's something going on, and it's better to make the call and be wrong than not make the call and wish you had," said Smit.

The amount of suicides in Rock County rose during the recession but is headed back down, according to Smit.

If someone you know is talking about hurting themselves, they should contact the 24-hour crisis line at 608-757-5025.

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