Category Archives: Mental Hygiene

BDN Series Mentions Mentoring…

back-to-school-183533_1280“Maine Focus” is currently running a series of excellent articles “Before Addition There’s a Child.” I’m both honored and humbled to report that my experience with Bus Drive Otis Phillips was included in the installment entitled “How one caring adult can change the life of a child.” (Scroll down to the epilog, “Your Stories.”) I continue to be amazed at the impact this story is having.

My ongoing hope is captured in my observation that “We mentor people in ways we don’t even mean to.” A corollary to that is mentoring doesn’t have to be hard. By definition, mentoring is a relationship in which an experienced person helps guide someone who is less experienced.  I think something as simple as  a kind or encouraging word creates a connection that can be defined as a relationship, however brief. Let’s call it a ‘mentoring moment.”

The Maine Focus series is about “preventing one of the largest public health problems of our time.” There’s a growing body of evidence that human connection goes a long way towards combating addiction.

Mine isn’t the only story in which an adult did something that at first seems small, but turns out to have major impacts, perhaps because it is about human connection. Hearing those stories is encouraging and heartwarming. But creating our own stories can be even better. Just look for those mentoring moments.

FAQ About the Suicide Prevention Workshops

questionsHere are some frequently asked questions about the suicide awareness and prevention workshop—with answers from Walter, the instructor. If you have a question or concern that’s not listed, send it by email!

Who should take this class?

Is there a minimum age to attend?

What does the class cover?

What is class based on?

Will the class be depressing?

What are some reasons people don’t take the class?

What are some reasons people do take the class?

What qualifies you to teach this class?

Who should take this class?

It’s tempting to answer “everyone!” Employees of public school systems are required by law (LD 609) to complete suicide prevention training. This course satisfies that requirement. However, most adults would benefit from attending. (See “What does the class cover?”) Past classes have included volunteers, health care professionals, ministers, and individuals from many different walks of life.

Is there a minimum age to attend?

Not formally, although the material is not geared to young children (under 12). Research shows that teens often reach out to peers in times of trouble, so middle and high school students are important potential participants. I’ve had more than a few conversations with parents of teenagers, suggesting they attend together.

What does the class cover?

Major topics include “myths and facts,” recognizing risk factors and warning signs, basic intervention strategy, resources available, post-attempt strategies, and questions/answers. An important focus is on the basic intervention strategy. Among people who have attended, 95% feel more confident in recognizing risk factors and warning signs; 85% feel better equipped to help someone who displays warning signs or seems suicidal.

What is class based on?

The course is “research based” and most content results from a collaborative effort through the Maine Suicide Prevention Program, an initiative of the Maine CDC in DHHS; training offered through partnership with NAMI Maine, The Maine Medical Association, Co-Occurring Collaborative Serving Maine and Maine Primary Care Association. It is not a “touchy-feely” course but is based on facts and empirical data.

Will the class be depressing?

On the contrary, while suicide is a public health crisis, the emphasis of the class is on what can be done and what is being done.

What are some reasons people don’t take the class?

There are probably as many reasons as there are people! We suspect some people do not attend because they do not feel they are qualified to help prevent suicide. Research proves that nearly anyone can provide a basic intervention using simple techniques that include being a good listener.

What are some reasons people do take the class?

Some initially attend because of the legal requirement, but all report the material and experience is helpful and no one has ever said they regret attending. I like the analogy of CPR. When we stop and consider the number of people who are CPR trained and the lives saved as a result, doesn’t it make sense to have a similar emphasis on mental health?

What qualifies you to teach this class?

I am Gatekeeper trained and have completed the required “Train the Trainer” Program conducted by the Maine Suicide Prevention Program. While not required, I am also a NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) Certified Mental Health Specialist for Youth and Adults. I am an experienced educator and substitute elementary school teacher.

Suicide Awareness and Prevention Program Expanded

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!

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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!

2016 Fall Suicide Awareness Classes

 

Register for 2017 Suicide Prevention Workshops

Workshopss being held in Guilford are being sponsored by Abbot Village Press with the generous support of Guilford United Methodist Church. There is no charge to attend, but we are asking folks to register to facilitate planning.

The workshop scheduled for May 11, 2017 is being sponsored by Abbot Village Press with the generous support of the Bangor Grange Community Connection Program. There is no charge to attend, but we are asking folks to register to facilitate planning.

Note that registration for the class on May 2 in Newport is done through RSU 19 Adult Education. 

Paying It Backward, part two

divine-light-1296309_1280
“Let your hopes, not your hurts, shape your future.”   (Robert Schuller)

When I wrote Paying It Backward , I’m not sure I really expected some of the results I’ve experienced. Of course my hope was two-fold. First, I hoped that some descendants of a man who greatly impacted my life would know about it. Second, I wished that the story might inspire readers to consider how small actions can have big impacts.

I’m happy to report that I’ve heard from my bus driver friend’s son and some grandchildren and great-grandchildren! I’ve learned that Otis was born in 1899 in New Hampshire and moved to Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1924. He operated trolley cars long before driving busses. It has been great fun to compare impressions and memories of him. The word “kindly” seems to be used often.

It seemed a bit odd to learn that Otis’s son is now 84 years old! Time does march on, I guess. And even stranger to realize that if he was still alive, Otis would now be 117.

One result of  writing about the experience I didn’t expect is that the “Otis story” would become the apex of a presentation I would develop entitled, “Finding Dead Rainbows–where you stand makes a difference.” Initially, I was thinking that finding hope is often a matter of perspective–where we stand can make a difference in what we see. It was later that I realized Otis not only rescued me by letting me stand in front of the line; he also gave me hope.

Offering hope need not be complicated. I recently taught a class of adults and discovered one student who was my rainbow. Every time I looked her way, she was looking at me with a slight smile, clearly engaged and enjoying the learning experience. Anyone who has taught or spoke to groups knows how easy it is to focus on the person who has dozed off or is clearly not paying attention. But who can resist a rainbow?

After once telling the Otis story in a presentation, one listener approached me, admitting he almost cried. “Do you realize how different your life might have been if it were not for Otis?” he asked. I thought I did until he speculated, “You might have become a very different person… or in jail or maybe even dead.” My first reaction was that he was being a bit dramatic, but later I thought perhaps not.

A bully hurts. A bus driver helps. A smile makes a difference. We can decide what shapes our future. We can also help shape the future of others.

Thanks again, Otis.