Tuesday, September 9, 2014

One World Connected: Making Suicide Prevention a Global Imperative

September 7, 2014
Sally Spencer-Thomas

For the past two weeks I have had the immense privilege of traveling internationally to participate in some of the most exciting global suicide prevention initiatives of the year. The events have left me humbled, inspired and feeling deeply connected to something big and important. First, I attended the 15th European Symposium on Suicide and Suicidal Behavior (ESSSB15) in Tallinn, Estonia and then I had the tremendous honor of being invited to the World Health Organization’s launch of the World Suicide Report in Geneva, Switzerland. Both of these experiences have left me with the tangible impression of “one world connected” – the theme of this year’s National Suicide Prevention Week (9/8-9/14, 2014) and World Suicide Prevention Day (9/10/14).

The theme of connection is potent. When it comes to suicide prevention, having a strong sense of community and belonging is one of the most powerful protective factors against suicide. When people feel connected to something larger than themselves, they are often able to weather life’s hardships much better than those who feel isolated or who believe that they have become a burden to those who love them. This sense of connection happens between individuals; it also occurs in the global community.

In fact, connection, inclusion and collaboration were themes that emerged from both meetings from the highest levels of our world’s mental health leaders. From ESSSB15 we heard loud and clear the need to “bring the first person into our research” because we had lots of study about the “suicidal mind” but little understanding. Leaders called to action: bridge the communication gap between researchers and people with lived experience and to acknowledge the importance of compassion and empathy, dialogue and partnership. We need to get beyond studying suicidal behavior and find positive outcomes of change. As Jerry Reed, the Director of the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, said, “We talk a lot about deaths, but we need to talk about hope and recovery.”

Equally emphasized was the message of new and needed voices in the work of suicide prevention. Many talked about the role of making suicide prevention a central focus of health care; about the priority to engage parents and educators and to involve those that support our unemployed and underemployed.

At the World Health Organization’s two-day meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, Shahkar Saxena, Director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse of WHO made clear his call to action from opening remarks to the 100+ delegates from over 30 countries, when he talked about the purpose of the meeting: implementing an action plan through collaboration, “One World Connected.”

For a copy of the First World Suicide Report: http://www.who.int/mental_health/suicide-prevention/en/

Lifting up the voices of lived experience was also a priority of this ceremonial launch of the World Suicide Report. The day began with powerful testimonies from both a suicide attempt survivor from the UK and a suicide loss survivor from Kenya. Both attributed the power of compassion as the critical element to what helped them survive their dark times.

Dr. Danuta Wasserman from Sweden, the current President of the European Psychiatric Association said, “We must listen to the voices of lived experience because they challenge what we think we know.”

Dr. Kathleen Lynch, Minister of State for Primary and Social Care in Ireland reiterated the “One World” theme when she said, “This is not about the other. It’s about us. We need systems of kindness.”

Finally, Michelle Funk, Director of Mental Health Policy for WHO underscored the importance of human rights and social justice as we move into the next chapter of the suicide prevention movement. She facilitated an important conversation about strengthening leadership and governance in the movement to build capacity and improve sustainability in our efforts. Together the international partners attending committed to improving opportunities for peer support and practical recovery models. Still, in 25 countries, suicidal behavior remains criminalized and many countries, including the US still use coercion, seclusion and restraints as a method of “treatment.” Clearly, we have much work ahead of us.
Perhaps the most moving part of the whole 10-day experience was the presentation Matthew Johnstone, founder, illustrator and source of inspiration for the viral campaign called, “I had a black dog, his name is depression.”

Matthew illustrated the images, which became both a book and a viral video now reaching almost 4,000,000 people: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiCrniLQGYc

He talked about the power of illustration to demonstrate experiences that are often beyond words. Experiences of despair and hopelessness, but also experiences of connection and recovery are depicted with charm and accuracy. As the conclusion of the meeting, Johnstone announced the launch of the new video, “Living with a Black Dog” for the supporters and carers of people living with depression: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2VRRx7Mtep8

This new video launched just three days ago and already has over 6,000 views.

On the plane ride home yesterday, I reflected on the intensity of our field, the potential we have when we reach out and support, and the incredible momentum we are starting to generate from the power of collaboration and the courage of lived experience; I am humbled and in awe. One World Connected.

Friday, September 5, 2014

"One World Connected” Theme of This Year’s National Suicide Prevention Week

Awareness and Remembrance Events to Happen throughout September
Denver, Colorado. September 5, 2014.  Having a strong sense of community and belonging is one of the most powerful protective factors against suicide. When people feel connected to something larger than themselves, they are often able to weather life’s hardships much better than those who feel isolated or who believe that they have become a burden to those who love them. For these reasons, Colorado is celebrating connection by promoting this theme – “One World Connected” – during the 2014 National Suicide Prevention Week, September 8-14. For more information: www.suicidepreventioncolorado.org.
Colorado ranks 9th in the nation in its rate of suicide deaths. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States with one suicide occurring on average every 13.3 minutes. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among 15 to 24-year-olds. Approximately 987,950 American attempt suicide each year. It is estimated that five million living Americans have attempted to kill themselves. Every year in the United States, more than 19,500 men and women kill themselves with a gun; two-thirds more than the number who use a gun to kill another person. An estimated 4.8 million Americans are survivors of suicide of a friend, family member, or loved one. During this week, many Colorado-based suicide prevention and mental health promotion organizations will be hosting awareness and remembrance events to bring people together, offer support, build skills, and mobilize change.
Throughout the month of September, around the state people will be connecting through community walks and candle-lighting ceremonies to honor those lost to suicide, to recognize those who are surviving suicidal intensity, and to celebrate the solidarity of communities pulling together to support the cause of suicide prevention.
Special events highlighted, other events on-going support groups/meetings)
SEPT 6th: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention South Metro Community Walk
9am – 12pm Highlands Ranch High School
SEPT 8th: HOPE Coalition of Boulder Monthly Meeting
1pm – 3pm First Congregational Church, 1128 Pine St, Boulder
SEPT 9th & 10th: ASIST Training (2-day training)
8:30am – 4:30pm 9250 Zotos Drive, Highlands Ranch, CO, United States
Applied Suicide Intervention Skills 2-day training
Douglas County Sheriff's Office - Highlands Ranch Substation
Please arrive by 8:15 a.m. to sign-in
SPCC Educational Session and General Meeting
9:30am – 11:30am Mental Health Center of Denver, 4141 E Dickenson
Educational sessions and meetings are open to the public
To conference call in: 218-844-8230, 597856#
Heartbeat -- Eagle County, Avon
6:30pm – 8:00pm Beaver Creek Chapel, Avon
HEARTBEAT is peer support offering empathy, encouragement and direction following the suicide of a loved one.
Contact: Jill Baron at (970) 309-7699
Survivors of Suicide Support Group (Adults Only 18+)
7:30pm – 9:00pm VAST Wellness Center Classroom/ 2323 South Troy St. Suite 3-107, Aurora
Contact: Robin Perkins, MS/ 303.204.6956/robin@turningpointfamilytherapy.com
Charge: $10 per person per meeting (Discounts and waivers available)
World Suicide Prevention Day Candle-lighting Ceremony at Union Station
7:15 – 8:30pm Union Station, Denver
Free and open to the public
SEPT 11thSOS: Survivors of Suicide
7pm – 9pm Littleton Adventist Hospital, 7700 S. Broadway, Littleton
Contact: Carol, 720.328.9229 | Lisa, 303.697.6984 | Shelly, 303.378.5028
SEPT 12th: Survivors of a Spouse's/Partner's Suicide
6:30pm – 8:00pm 7009 S. Potomac St, Suite 109 Centennial CO 80112 (map)
This group is for persons who have had a partner or spouse die by suicide. 
Please RSVP at least 24 hours ahead of time for preparation and materials
Contact: Jocelyn Hilling, MA 303-249-2859jhilling@atpeacetherapycenters.com
SEPT 13th:  American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Community Walk in Fort Morgan
9am – 12pm Riverside Park Nature Trail, Fort Morgan, Colorado, USA
Registration: 9:00 am; Walk start 10:00 am
SEPT 15th: Heartbeat Pueblo
6pm – 8pm 1008 Minnequa Ave. Pueblo, CO 81004 (map)
New members must participate in a brief counseling session prior to joining the group.
Contact: 719-564-6642 for more information.
Southwest Metro HEARTBEAT
7pm – 9pm Abiding Hope Lutheran Church, 6337 S. Robb Way, Littleton
SEPT 16thHeartbeat Greeley
7pm – 9pm Greeley 
Contact: Patty Lloyd for locationpatty.lloyd@northrange.org
Heartbeat Support -- Mesa County
7pm – 9pm Miller House at the Hospice Complex -- 3090 N 12th St
Contact: 985-4551
Parents Surviving Suicide Monthly Meeting
7pm – 9pm Bethany Lutheran Church, Room 210, 4500 East Hampden Avenue, Denver, CO
Contact: Vivian Epstein vsepublisher@earthlink.net
SEPT 18th: Heartbeat Fort Lupton
7pm – 9pm Fort Lupton, Regular location TBD
Contact: Patty Lloyd for locationpatty.lloyd@northrange.org
SEPT 21st :13th Annual Second Wind Walk/Run
10am – 11am Jefferson County Fairgrounds in Golden, CO
SEPT 23rd:  East Metro HEARTBEAT
7pm – 9pm HeartLight Center, 11150 E. Dartmouth Ave., Aurora
Contact: Katie Ford, 303.755.2679 or 720.300.8213kford1046@q.com
SEPT 24th: Heartbeat -- Eagle County, Avon
6:30pm – 8:00pm Beaver Creek Chapel, Avon
Support Group for Family & Friends Affected by Suicide.
Contact: Jill Baron at (970) 309-7699
SEPT 25th: Sound Out for Life Training (Telling Our Stories Safely and Effectively)
5:30pm – 8:30pm Mountain States Employers Council 1799 Pennsylvania St, Denver
Co-hosted by the Carson J Spencer Foundation and the Center for Dignity, Recovery and Empowerment. Based on best practices and research for stigma change, the Sound out for Life program trains individuals to communicate their messages of hope and recovery to the general public and specific groups as well. By “Sounding Out” about their journey, including experiences of trauma and stigma, moments of transformation and personal growth, people who’ve attempted suicide or lost loved ones to suicide connect their audiences to the importance of open dialogue and positive support that can make all the difference when people are in need.
SEPT 27th: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Community Walk in Grand Junction
9am – 12pm Western Colorado Botanical Gardens, Struthers Avenue
SEPT 29th-OCT 1st Conversations for Life/Working Minds Train-the-Trainer Workshop
8:00pm -- 5:00pm Mountain States Employers Council, Meeting Room 5 1799 Pennsylvania St
Co-hosted by the Carson J Spencer Foundation and Australia partners in suicide prevention
Combination 3-day training on getting upstream from a suicide crisis by learning skills in communication, support and referral.
For more information go towww.suicidepreventioncolorado.org or email Sally Spencer-Thomas (Sally@CarsonJSpencer.org). For more information about the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Colorado, visitwww.suicidepreventioncolorado.org, or call 720-352-7505.
About the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Colorado:The Suicide Prevention Coalition of Colorado (SPCC) was formed in 1999, when concerned citizens set out to create a statewide agency with the purpose of preventing suicide and creating a resource network for those who were working to prevent suicide around the state. Today, SPCC’s membership of concerned agencies, organizations and individuals who are working in the areas of suicide prevention, intervention and postvention has statewide reach. The mission of the SPCC is to reduce suicide and its impact for all Coloradans through advocacy, collaboration and education. www.suicidepreventioncolorado.org