This post is appearing on Facebook… almost to the point of going viral. That’s certainly not a bad thing, but my question is a little different.
Would three of my friends please attend a free two-hour workshop that will help you understand some facts about suicide and some very simple steps you can take to help prevent it?
You can do more than just provide a phone number!
I currently have two free workshops scheduled:
Thursday, May 11, 2017, at Bangor Grange, 1192 Ohio Street in Bangor, starting at 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday, May 16, 2017, at Guilford United Methodist Church, 3 School Street in Guilford starting at 6:30 p.m.
Both workshops are free–all it costs is two hours of your time–admittedly a little more than copying and pasting a phone number, but in return for those two hours you’ll be able to help stem this crisis. 93% of students who’ve attended my class say they feel more confident about being able to recognize suicide warning signs and risk factors. 85% left feeling better equipped to help someone might seem suicidal.
And you’ll get a magnet that includes both the National and Maine Hotline Numbers as well as lots of resource material. In order to ensure we have plenty of material, we do ask you to pre-register by visiting our website or calling 343-1842.
But wait, there’s more! A third workshop is available through the RSU 19 Adult Education Program on Tuesday, May 2, 2017, at Nokomis High School in Newport. There is a small charge for this program… for more information or to register, visit http://rsu19.maineadulted.org/ or call 207 368-3290.
And even more! Did you know that you can report Facebook Posts that seem to reflect suicidal thoughts? Here’s how!
Walter Boomsma is Gatekeeper trained and a NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) Certified Mental Health Specialist for Youth and Adults. He is also an experienced educator and substitute elementary school teacher.
Yes, this is about suicide prevention… but it’s also about mental health! Learn some of the signs that a person is troubled and how you can make a difference. You’ll also receive resources available and materials produced by the Maine Suicide Prevention Program. (Click the image to see a larger size.)
Substitute teacher class “alumni,” school employees and volunteers take note!
Maine is ranked fourteenth in the United States for deaths by suicide. Suicide in Maine occurs 7-9 times more often than homicide. The State averages 196 deaths by suicide each year; in 2009 alone, 2,800 high school students and 4,000 adults attempted suicide while 6,700 high school students and 27,000 adults considered suicide.
In part for those reasons, the Maine Legislature passed LD 609 several years ago. The 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.
For the past year, I have been working towards and am now fully qualified to conduct this training. I have completed the NAMI Adult Mental Health First Aid Specialist Training, Youth First Aid Provider Training, Gatekeeper Training, and Train the Trainer training—more than was required to qualify. I did so in part for the very same reasons the Maine Legislature enacted this requirement.
From 2007 through 2011 there were 116 youth (under age 25) suicides in Maine. Of those, 49 were between the ages of 10 and 19. During my training, I learned that the youngest confirmed suicide in Maine last year was an eight-year-old girl—that is almost unimaginable to most people. Those of us who work and play with these kids have a special opportunity to prevent these tragedies.
The workshop will last about two hours and is truly designed for anyone—not just school employees–although the focus will be on youth. The first step in suicide prevention is awareness and understanding of risk factors. The program will also provide an understanding of basic prevention strategies and help attendees become more confident in the some of the basic steps they can take to assist others who may be troubled. There will be ample opportunity for questions and discussion. Attendees will also receive printed resources and information. Training is offered in conjunction with the Maine Suicide Prevention Program, an initiative of the Maine CDC in partnership with NAMI Maine.
PVAEC (Piscataquis Valley Adult Education Cooperative) has already agreed to sponsor the workshop during the winter/spring semester. The program will likely be offered in other adult education programs throughout the area. (Check back for dates!) Also, if any schools or organizations are interested in a program at your location, please let me know. I’ll be happy to work with you. Suicide Prevention is up to all of us.
For a few months last spring, you might have seen me sporting one of those bracelets made from rubber bands. They are rather colorful and were quite the rage for a while. I came by mine as a gift from a fourth grader. There was no occasion and very little fanfare. It seemed like she just wanted me to have it for no other reason than that. I wore it constantly for a few months. Unfortunately, ultraviolet light does a number on rubber bands and it ultimately disintegrated.
Not so the handmade envelope that is pinned to the bulletin board in the kitchen. It was a gift from a kindergartener following an indoor recess due to rain. I guess her idea of a “good time” was making something for Mr. Boomsma. I suspect she had some help with the envelope, but the drawing rolled up inside is clearly her own work. It is festooned with flowers and stick figures beneath a bright sun.
I am hesitant to attempt an explanation of what makes these gifts special, but a word that comes to mind is “sharing.” We most often associate the word “giving” with gifts. But I suspect the best gifts include an element of sharing. How different it would be to be handed something with the explanation, “I want to share this with you.” Neither gift was what one might consider costly–and neither child was forced to line up in front of a store for hours to get the best deal. Perhaps even better, they didn’t need to compete with other children over limited quantities to capture my gifts. Yet how I treasure these simple gifts. There is much to be said for giving (sharing) of oneself.
Angila Peters shares much of herself on her blog called “Detached from Logic.” She encourages us to abandon logic so we can “just be who you are.” In what must surely be a strange irony, much of what she proposes is, in fact, quite logical. You have got to read a recent post called American Girl versus Third World Girl. “Black Friday” may be over, but it’s not too late–you should read this before you buy one more Christmas present. I’d like to tell you more, but I’m afraid of being called a spoiler. I will tell you that I think she’s really onto something. You just may find yourself re-thinking some of your Christmas list purchases.
As a bit of an eclectic, I’m not given to having favorites. If I was, one of my favorite tunes would be “Simple Gifts.” I love the tune for its simplicity. It was written in Maine by Joseph Brackett in 1848. It’s actually considered a Shaker dance song, but could be a Christmas Carol. Brackett also wrote simple lyrics:
Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.
Simple gifts, simple tune, simple lyrics and yet so much think about. “Just be who you are”–a simple gift we can give ourselves so we find ourselves “in the place just right.” And how simple it can be to share ourselves “in the valley of love and delight.”
An unknown writer added several verses:
Tis the gift to be loved and that love to return, Tis the gift to be taught and a richer gift to learn, And when we expect of others what we try to live each day, Then we’ll all live together and we’ll all learn to say, When true simplicity is gained, To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed, To turn, turn will be our delight, Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.
Tis the gift to have friends and a true friend to be, Tis the gift to think of others not to only think of “me”, And when we hear what others really think and really feel, Then we’ll all live together with a love that is real. When true simplicity is gained, To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed, To turn, turn will be our delight, Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.
Tis the gift to be loving, tis the best gift of all Like a quiet rain it blesses where it falls And with it we will truly believe Tis better to give than it is to receive. When true simplicity is gained, To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed, To turn, turn will be our delight, Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.
Walter Boomsma (“Mr. Boomsma”) writes on a wide array of topics including personal development, teaching and learning. Course information is also available here!