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.)
It may seem counter-intuitive, but for many people the holiday season is anything but the most wonderful time of the year. There are many reasons why a person might experience the “holiday blues” and it’s an especially difficult time of the year for those who suffer from clinical depression. Feeling “down” during the holidays can be especially trying because there’s the sense that everyone else is feeling merry.
Regular readers know that I’ve spent the past year becoming gatekeeper trained and a NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) Certified Mental Health First Aid Specialist for both youth and adults. I did this in a large part so I could offer the training required to bring folks into compliance with the recent law (LD 609) that requires all Maine school employees to receive basic suicide prevention education.*
One of the things I learned during my training was that Facebook has a system in place that allows users to report posts that reflect bullying or the potential for self-harm. This was, it seemed to me, a fairly well-kept secret. I intend to include it in any training I offer and, hopefully, “spread the word.”
So this morning, I decided to “vet” the process before I shared it with you. I have good news and bad news. The good news is most social media platforms have taken suicide prevent seriously. The bad news is that, true to form, Facebook has changed the methodology several times since introducing it several years ago. While it’s still relatively easy to report, it’s not exactly intuitive.
If you see a post that raises some concerns (examples would be hopelessness, despair, obsessive thoughts about death) on Facebook, you may click the down arrow at the top right of that post. Next click on the drop down menu “report photo (or post).” On the next drop down, click “I think it shouldn’t be…” On the next drop down, click “Something else.” This will finally take you to the option of reporting the potential for self-harm. These steps “worked” as of this morning, December 2, 2015.
Personally, I think it should be easier. Frankly, I also have some concerns about whether or not it truly generates action. On unrelated issues I’ve found Facebook less than responsive. Supposedly a “team of experts” will immediately take action and reach out to the poster with an offer to chat, resources, etc.
I’d therefore encourage anyone who sees a post that creates concern to reach out personally with an offer to talk and listen, encouraging the poster to call a hotline. This might sound scary, but compassion and caring are all that are required to intervene—you do not have to be an “expert.”
An important resource is the Facebook Help Center—the link is https://www.facebook.com/help/594991777257121/ and it’s worth visiting before you need it. This link should take you directly to the safety resources page covering suicide prevention, bullying, etc.
Another resource can be found at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/gethelp/online.aspx where you’ll find links to methods for other social media such as Twitter, YouTube, etc.
Information and course dates will be posted soon. The two-hour program is designed to raise awareness about suicide risk factors and warning signs and to provide information on what steps to take if suicide is suspected. While focused on students and youth, the information and skills learned are appropriate for use with anyone who might be feeling suicidal, no matter what their age.
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.