Suicide continues to be a public health care crisis in Maine and the nation. The numbers tell only part of the story. And focusing on suicide prevention, while a noble and necessary goal, is somewhat akin to looking at the tip of an iceberg. The path to attempted suicide is often long and winding. I believe the sooner we meet and connect with someone on that path, the more likely we can have an impact.
By comparison, we don’t ignore an unusual growth until it reaches stage four cancer. Are there signs and symptoms that an average person can recognize in others? This is one of the many questions the Suicide Awareness and Prevention Workshop I’m conducting this fall will attempt to answer.
This year’s workshops will continue to meet the requirements of LD 609. That bill, simply stated, requires every employee of all school systems to receive one to two hours of Suicide Awareness Training. “Every employee” means anyone who receives a paycheck and includes substitute teachers, bus drivers, custodians—in fact, it is strongly recommended school volunteers receive the training as well. The training must follow research-based national guidelines.
Last year, workshops were attended by school employees, agency employees, pastors, parents, and folks who simply had an interest and felt a need for some basic strategies for helping others who might be experiencing emotional difficulties. Personally, I found this troubling, but also rewarding. Evaluations of last year’s classes also revealed that, as a result of attending the workshop:
- 85% of participants agreed or strongly agreed they feel more comfortable talking about suicide;
- 93% agreed or strongly agreed they feel more confident in their ability to recognize suicide warning signs;
- 85% felt better equipped to help someone who might seem suicidal.
The more good news is that some unanticipated circumstances created an opportunity to create an exciting alliance making It possible to expand offerings for this fall. My need for a facility to host courses in the local area is being generously met by the Guilford United Methodist Church. The Church is also extremely excited about being able to provide this important education to the community. It’s a win-win-win: students, church, instructor. Thanks to the Church’s generosity, we are currently scheduling three workshops, all free!
In addition to the Guilford workshops, the workshop is being sponsored by RSU 19 adult education in Newport and MSAD 53 in Pittsfield.
With GUMC providing the facility in Guilford, Abbot Village Press is the course sponsor. Even though the program is free, we are asking folks to pre-register assist with planning and printing handouts. Preregistration can be accomplished on the Abbot Village Press Website or by calling (207) 343-1842. Registration for the courses in Newport and Pittsfield should be made through the respective adult education offices.
These workshops are based on the Maine Suicide Prevention Program, an initiative of the Maine CDC in partnership with NAMI Maine. Check the expanded schedule!