Tag Archives: mental hygiene

Craig Colson and I Talk…

For those who missed it “live,” here is a link to the brief talk Craig Colson and I had on the WVII Monday Noon Newscast. (I haven’t been able to embed the broadcast here… you can also find this link on Mr. Boomsma’s Facebook Page.)

I’m grateful to Craig for reaching out with his invitation and the opportunity to share some thoughts. For more information about the workshops visit the FAQ page… or just register and come! (Registration is not absolutely required–we have plenty of room, but it will help us plan handouts and seating.)

 

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

 

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!

New Course Available Soon!

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.

Hotline NumbersThe 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.