Tag Archives: mental health

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

Workshops being held in Guilford are 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.

We are currently working on a schedule for the balance of 2017.  A workshop is scheduled through MSAD 53 Adult Education (register through them)  on Tuesday, October 3, 2017, at 6:00 p.m.

Also, Walter is currently scheduled to co-facilitate a “Coffee Talk” with Pastor Reeni on the topic of “Thirteen Reasons Why…” on Wednesday, June 7, 2017, at the Guilford United Methodist Church.

Organizations interested in sponsoring a workshop, please let us know. You can email or call Walter at 207 343-1842.

I Might Be Crazy… -- you can decide!:

ARRGH!Every so often I find myself in a position where I ask myself, “Why did I do that, am I crazy?” While you may not be interested in my mental health, if you’re on the site looking for something, you might find things a bit out of whack. Let me explain. (The good news is, I can explain–so I’m not irrational. At least at the moment.)

My two primary sites are currently undergoing significant changes. This Brain Leaks and Musings site is in the process of being migrated to a different server. I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that migration means lots of updating and changes are required because not everything migrates. I’m discovering lots of opportunities (not using the word “problems”) for change. Some will improve the visitor’s experience, some will make my job easier. All will take some time. So, in short, if you can’t find something on the site or find something broken, please let me know.

The reason I might be crazy is that I selected absolutely the worst month of the year to undertake this. This is the month when fall courses must be scheduled and planned. It’s also historically the month I do much of my course development and improvement work. Taking on an additional project of this magnitude might be crazy, right?

In an interesting way, the decision to do this at such a “crazy” time is linked to mental health. As most will know, I teach a number of subjects in addition to real estate and, in my spare time work with kids. Several years ago I became a NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) certified mental health specialist for youth and adults. Since I am also gatekeeper trained, I began offering a suicide awareness and prevention course. Suicide is a serious public health concern. Maine is not an exception. Our 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 because of this, a law was passed several years ago that request anyone receiving a paycheck from a Maine Public School system to complete this research-based course. Since I also teach a substitute teacher’s course, it made sense for me to offer the required Suicide Awareness Course through several adult education programs where I teach the Substitute Teacher’s Course.

This year one of those adult education programs opted not to offer the program and I needed to find a different venue. In that I have succeeded– and I’m really excited about the possibilities it will create. However, since the courses I’ll be offering at that venue will be sponsored by my company, Abbot Village Press. That means I will be handling the course administration responsibilities usually handled by the course “provider.”

So I need to develop an “online” system that will allow students to register for those courses. I’m working on it. But in the interim things might look a little messy and confusing. One of my many goals is to avoid creating confusion. So bear with me… and if you have any questions or suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

A Few Course Updates…

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Spring’s just started, but the learning opportunities continue!

I’ve conducted my newest course offering on Suicide Awareness and Prevention twice and the results have been rewarding and exciting! Not only have educational professionals attended, but students have included church employees, agency employees, and several who simply wanted the information for their own use—one attendee came all the way from Hermon!

My ego enjoys the ratings of the instructor and positive comments, but there are a couple of observations that are far more important. As a result of attending these two classes:

  • 85% of participants either agreed or strongly agreed they feel more comfortable talking about suicide.
  • 93% of participants either agreed or strongly agreed they feel more confident in their ability to recognize suicide warning signs and risk factors.
  • 85% of participants feel better equipped to help someone who might seem suicidal.

Currently, there are two more classes scheduled:

  1. Tuesday, March 29, 2016 at the Penquis Higher Education Center in Dover Foxcroft, sponsored by PVAEC, 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. Call 564-6525 for information and to register.
  2. Thursday, April 14, 2016 at Nokomis Regional High School in Newport, sponsored by RSU 19 Adult Education, 3:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. Call 368-3290 for information and to register.

As promised in the classes already taught, I’ve started a website page of resources for developing good mental health and preventing suicide.

April is a busy month with Real Estate Classes–both licensing and continuing education. You can find a complete calendar on my real estate blog.

Due to increasing requests for learning opportunities, RSU 19 Adult Education is adding a second wave of classes in late spring and this summer this year. By request, I’ll be developing and offering an overview course, The Why’s and Where’s of Blogging The course is scheduled for Thursday, May 19 at Nokomis High school in Newport. We’ll also be offering the Substitute Teacher Course late in the summer.

The best way to avoid missing an opportunity is to sign up for the Learning Opportunities Newsletter. Since I know how annoying a flood of email can be, you’ll only hear from me about once a month at the most!

If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.

Chew on this!

I was recently reminded of the power of criticism when two diametrically opposed viewpoints hit my email inbox on the same day. I will spare you the details, but one was highly complimentary of a website I maintain. The second was not so much so. While expressed as a concern, the uncomplimentary message evoked some pretty strong emotion from me. Frankly, it took me several hours to calm down enough to poll several folks I respect regarding the validity of the criticism. I was assured it was, in fact, baseless.

But here’s an interesting phenomena. While I was ultimately able to “chuckle” over the criticism, guess which one of those emails I spent the most mental and emotional energy on? If you guessed “the negative one,” you’d be correct.

Ironically (unless you believe in fate), a few days later I happened to listen to an inspiring TED talk. The speaker introduced the concept of “mental hygiene” noting that while we take care of our bodies with healthy practices, most people do not have a regimen that addresses mental health. One point that particularly hit home was that we human beings have a tendency to “ruminate” over incidents and conditions in our lives. (In animal terms, “chew over and over.”) His challenge was that we might do well to consider what we are consuming and chewing over and over. Our choices affect not only our mental state, but also how and what we communicate. And, of course, what we communicate dramatically impacts those we are around.

If you're going to get trapped by your own thinking, it might as well be positive.
If you’re going to get trapped by your own thinking, it might as well be positive.

There’s both a personal and an organizational lesson for us in this. Chewing on the negative isn’t going to make it positive. Sometimes we have to spit it out and find something better to chew on. That is a choice we can make.

I substitute taught kindergarten recently. One of the things I love about five year olds is they haven’t get figured out why things can’t be done—they try stuff. One of my best moments was when a young lady came up and tugged on my sleeve. “Mr. Boomsma, I want to tell you about something nice (another student) just did for me…” We work really hard to create a positive learning environment at school. There are official positions assigned every day: class messenger (delivers notes to the office) and cubby inspector (makes sure no one has forgotten anything at the end of the day) are two. But my personal favorite is the kindness reporter. A different student each day is challenged to spot and report kindnesses happening in the classroom.

I wonder how our lives would change if we decided to be a “Kindness Reporter.” We could simply do it personally and randomly or we could self-appoint ourselves to the position with our family, our workplace, or organizations we’ve joined. Maybe we also could be a “Thinking Monitor”—someone who decides to point out negative thinking and try to stop others from chewing on it.

If you’re not willing to do it for others, at least do it for yourself. Monitor how you’re thinking and how much kindness you’re doling out. Chew on the positive possibilities. It will improve your digestion!