We live in a world of prevention…from the common cold to cancer, weight gain to diabetes. However, preventing suicide is difficult due to the complexity of the human mind and spirit. It often seems taboo to even talk about, but without that conversation, understanding, and ultimately, prevention, won’t happen.
Mike Flaherty, President of the Owensboro Regional Suicide Prevention Coalition, (ORSPC) says that speaking of suicide is often like talking about the white elephant in the room. He points out that discussing suicide is necessary to help reduce the stigma, so that people who contemplate suicide do not feel so isolated.
In 2014, over 41,000 people died by suicide in the United States (CDC). The Owensboro Regional Suicide Prevention Coalition works within the community to try and prevent these tragedies. The Coalition began as a small group of people dedicated to providing support and help for “survivors” who have lost a loved one to suicide. ORSPC has grown to include many members of our community, from all walks of life, including professionals, concerned citizens and survivors of suicide. The mission of ORSPC is straightforward, “to work together, as neighbors in our community, to prevent the tragedy of suicide and its aftermath.” They have trained thousands of people to recognize warning signs of suicide and how to refer for help. The coalition uses public awareness strategies to highlight the problem of suicide in the community, state and country, and is dedicated to reducing the stigma associated with mental health treatment.
One lady recently shared with Flaherty, “I didn’t realize until my husband died how many people are affected.” But with the support of the Survivors of Suicide (SOS) Bereavement Group, she realized that she was not alone.
People handle grief differently, and people misunderstand mental health. Because there is such hesitancy associated with the conversation about death by suicide, people tend to avoid it. Flaherty says, “It’s not that people aren’t compassionate or don’t care – but when faced with something they don’t understand, they tend to close up. You don’t know how to respond or you are afraid to respond incorrectly.” That’s where the coalition comes in, raising awareness and providing support.
On April 13 and 14, ORSPC is hosting their 12th annual conference, providing speakers that address education, prevention and intervention strategies.
The two-day conference begins with a free program, open to the public on the evening of April 13, from 6:30 – 8 p.m. at the Owensboro Health Regional Hospital Auditorium. The only request is a $5 non-perishable food donation benefitting the Help Office Food Bank. Kevin Hines is a world renowned author, speaker and mental health advocate. He also survived a suicide attempt when he jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge when he was 19 years old. He will speak on the art of living mentally well. Pre-registration is recommended due to limited seating at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/4-13KevinHines16.
The second day (April 14) event is titled: “Hope Illuminated: A Comprehensive Approach to Suicide Prevention and Bereavement Support,” featuring Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas. It will be held at the Owensboro Health Regional Hospital Auditorium from 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. For registration visit: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/4-14HopeIlluminated16.
The goal for Dr. Spencer-Thomas’ presentation is to increase confidence among participants to address suicide prevention, intervention and postvention in the community and the workplace. She will also present on issues of how to deal with coping and bereavement when the tragedy of suicide happens in a community. Business leaders, pastors, church youth ministers, community activists, medical and mental health professionals can all benefit from this training. This event is also free, unless you request the 6 professional CEU hours.
ORSPC hopes the annual conference will serve as a catalyst for community education in workplace suicide prevention. The fastest growing demographic of death by suicide is middle-age white males, a group that makes up a large part of the workforce.
Why the workplace? It is a captive audience for education and prevention, and employers have become much more health-conscious over the years – they are an already established delivery system. Many employees have access to employee assistance programs, insurance reimbursement, and companies are recognizing that proper mental health is equally as important as physical health.
Owensboro Regional Suicide Prevention Coalition is ready to present to workplaces and hopes that companies and organizations will take advantage of this and their other support resources.
If we continue to ignore the “White Elephant” it doesn’t go away. Rather, it grows and stifles conversation that could lead to prevention and intervention. Be a part of the solution. Learn more about coping, healing and removing barriers. As walls tumble down, the “White Elephant” becomes an opportunity for understanding, which can lead to conversations that could literally save a life.
For more information visit http://www.orspc.org/.