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Suicide Prevention: What Our Community and Our Agency are Doing

September, 2018

“Suicide is preventable and there is always hope,” says Family & Children Services Behavior Health Program Manager Susan Davis. Much of this hope comes from government agencies, health care systems, employers, nonprofit organizations, schools, families, individuals, and human service agencies such as ours – “all of us combining our efforts to prevent suicide,” she says.

September is Suicide Awareness Month, so be on the lookout for walks, mental health training sessions, fund raisers, a “Messages of Hope” performance, and other events intended to bring people together and raise awareness of how to prevent suicide in our community and elsewhere.

Throughout the year, Family & Children Services and numerous other organizations are working diligently to raise suicide prevention awareness.

Do you have suicidal thoughts? Are you making a suicide plan? Do you know someone who might be? Keep searching. Don’t give up. Help is available. You matter.

Family & Children Services Suicide Prevention Programs

“It’s not a stretch to say that Family & Children Services personnel at all levels of the organization are working to prevent suicide in our community,” Susan says. She lists numerous agency professionals who are on the front lines of this effort. These include:

  • School-based therapists in the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo public schools who work with teachers, parents, and school administrators, to identify and counsel children who may be at risk of suicide or who may be grieving the death of a friend or family member from suicide.
  • Counseling Center therapists who counsel clients young and old who may be at risk and may be talking about suicide.
  • Mobile Crisis Response (MCR) team members who are called upon 24/7 to help youth under age 18 facing substance use or mental health crises that may include suicide. Launched in 2000, our MCR program has become a model for other countywide programs that are now mandated by the State of Michigan.
  • The Youth Crisis Residential and Crisis Respite workers at Glen’s House in Kalamazoo who provide safe haven, care, and counseling to youths experiencing acute psychiatric or mental health crises, including suicide ideation.
  • Staff members in our Community-Based Mental Health Programs such as Case Management, Family and Community Treatment (FACT), Parent Infant Program (PIP) and Link (Social Emotional Learning); and staff members in other programs who work with clients at increased risk of suicide due to mental illness and other factors.

Suicide Prevention Efforts in Our Community

“Family & Children Services is also part of a large communitywide effort aimed at suicide awareness, education, and intervention,” Susan says. “Together, we make a difference.”

According to Susan, Kalamazoo County has “an amazing continuum of services” for people who are in suicidal crisis or moving toward it, as well as for the people in their lives who want to help them. Calhoun County is also showing strength in this area, she says, especially with the recent launch of its own mobile crisis response program, Intensive Crisis Stabilization Services, by Summit Pointe in Battle Creek.

Susan serves on the Kalamazoo County Suicide Death Review Team, a group of health, social service, and other professionals who review each suicide death in the county in order to collect data and look for trends that will help guide the broader suicide prevention effort.

Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (KCMHSAS) is also expanding the use of “Mental Health First Aid,” a national training program designed to give laypeople key skills necessary to respond appropriately to signs of mental illness and suicide, Susan says. KCMHSAS serves adults with mental illness, persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities, persons with co-occurring disorders, and youth with serious emotional disturbances. Many of these people are at high risk of suicide.

“Mental Health First Aid trainers will come to your business, church, school, club, or other location to conduct training,” Susan says. “Some of our agency staff who don’t deal directly with mental health issues have gone through the training and have said it’s very beneficial. Public health experts here and across the country hope that this training becomes as common as CPR and traditional first aid training.” Learn more about Mental Health First Aid at http://kazoocmh.org/MentalHealthFirstAid.aspx.

Suicide Prevention Awareness Network

Susan also serves on an advisory board for the Kalamazoo County Suicide Prevention Awareness Network, or SPAN, a new effort with the goal to end suicide in our community. Advisory board members include professionals from the fields of public and higher education, primary health care, behavioral health care, aging, emergency responders, the faith community, and others.

Earlier this year, SPAN hosted a screening of The Ripple Effect, a documentary film focusing on the devastating effects of suicide and the positive ripple effects of advocacy, inspiration, and hope that are helping millions heal and stay alive.

SPAN will hold a “Prevention through Connection” launch event on Tuesday Oct. 9, at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, 120 Roberson St., Kalamazoo, where they will explain the goals and objectives of a countywide suicide prevention plan and recruit new members to the SPAN coalition. Registration and refreshments, 5-5:30 p.m., presentation and questions, 5:30-6:30. Register online at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/kalamazoo-county-suicide-prevention-action-network-launch-tickets-48920357105.

The SPAN event is being convened by Kalamazoo-based Gryphon Place, which operates a 24-hour helpline for people in crisis, as well as suicide prevention and survivor support programs. Gryphon Place has been a local leader in suicide prevention programming since 1970 and is a longtime partner with Family & Children Services. Learn more about Gryphon Place and its many programs at www.gryphon.org.

September Suicide Prevention Month: Local Events and National Resources

Each September, Suicide Prevention Month is held across the U.S. and in many other countries. It’s a time to learn about effective suicide prevention methods and to join with other community members and health care experts in grassroots prevention efforts.

Here’s a quick list of local events to put on your calendar. See details on these and others at the Gryphon Place website: www.gryphon.org/events

  • Dine to Donate – Sept. 8 and 13. A few local restaurants will raise funds for suicide prevention and awareness.
  • safeTALK Training – Sept. 7 and 21. Half-day alertness training that prepares anyone 15 or older, regardless of prior experience or training, to become a suicide-alert helper.
  • QPR Training – Sept. 12 and 13. “Question, Persuade, Refer” training teaches people to recognize someone at risk for suicide, then be able to ask them the direct question, persuade them to get help, and refer them to help.
  • Youth Mental Health First Aid Training – September 24. For adults who regularly interact with young people, ages 12-18.
  • Adult Mental Health First Aid Training – September 26.
  • 5th Annual Gryphon Place Suicide Prevention Walk – Sept. 29. The 5K walk and allied events will raise awareness for suicide prevention, allow people to connect with each other, and provide critical funds for Gryphon Place. Walk to support your community. Walk to support each other. Walk to support your loved ones. Walk to break stigma, to raise awareness, to educate, to connect, and to save lives.

A second suicide prevention walk is scheduled for Sept. 23 in Kalamazoo’s Milham Park. The “Out of the Darkness” 5K Walk and supporting activities is sponsored by the Southwest Michigan Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention intends to raise awareness and funds that will save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide. Learn more at https://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.event&eventID=5642.

There are many other ways to participate in Suicide Awareness Month and remain active throughout the year. Visit www.sprc.org/resources-programs/suicide-prevention-month-ideas-action or www.nami.org/Get-Involved/Awareness-Events/Suicide-Prevention-Awareness-Month for ideas and action steps that work for you.

The International Association for Suicide Prevention (https://iasp.info) even has ways to participate in World Suicide Prevention DAY on September 10, 2018, including a “Cycle Around the Globe” fundraiser and awareness builder. In 2017, participants worldwide collectively peddled almost NINE times around the globe to support the cause.

There are many ways for individuals, families, and groups to start learning and get involved in suicide prevention in September and throughout the year. A simple Google search for “suicide prevention” will lead you to programs, toolkits, factsheets, and tips to get started. Here are just a few online sources:

Anyone can be struggling with suicide. These and other sites have resources specifically for youth, the elderly, Native Americans, suicide loss survivors, suicide attempt survivors, disaster survivors, veterans, LGBTQ communities, Spanish speakers, the hearing impaired, and others.

Do you have suicidal thoughts? Are you making a suicide plan? Do you know someone who might be? Keep searching. Don’t give up. Help is available. Hope is always alive. You matter.

Call 800-563-5432 or 269-381-4357. Or visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat. You will be connected to a counselor who can provide emotional support and other services.

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