Monday, May 19, 2014

Coming Together on Suicide

Re-Published with permission from The Boston Globe
Written by Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas

Somewhere, a myth emerged that survivors of suicide loss and suicide attempt survivors couldn’t work together. That their stories would be too upsetting to one another. Survivors of loss would be plagued by the idea that their loved one died while others lived. Survivors of attempts would be triggered by the trauma and grief that comes from loss.
As an executive board member of the American Association of Suicidology, and as a survivor of suicide loss, I have to say that quite the opposite is usually the case.
Personally, I have found the stories of survival exceptionally inspiring. My brother Carson, a highly successful entrepreneur and business leader, died by suicide after a difficult battle with bipolar illness. Ultimately, I believe that the stigma of his mental illness killed him more than the illness itself. I know in my heart that if Carson had heard these stories of resilience and persistence, especially coming from a person with whom he could identify, he would’ve felt less shame and more hope.
Patrick Corrigan of the Center for Dignity, Recovery and Empowerment has conducted research about suicide attempt survivors that supports this. Coming into contact with people with a stigmatized condition is the best way to eliminate stigma.
I have become friends and colleagues of several “out” attempt survivors through my work, and my experience with their public emergence has been soul-moving. Being involved in the suicide attempt survivors movement is the most important thing I have been involved in, ever.
In March, I was honored to be part of the historic National Summit on Lived Experience in Suicide Prevention in San Francisco. Leaders from all over the United States convened, including the federal government’s top suicide prevention official, to hear attempt survivors tell heartbreaking stories of injustice, discrimination and punishment.
All of us were there to find positive ways to transform our mental health system, promote recovery and dignity, and dismantle the fear divide between mental health providers and people who’ve been suicidal. It was probably the most inspiring professional experience I have ever had.
These experiences have transformed me. While I have always seen myself as an ally, more recently I have been much more of an ally in action.
I had an “aha” moment last fall when I saw barriers that might have prevented this historic new AAS division for attempt survivors from passing. I thought, “Wow, someone needs to do something here.” And then it dawned on me: “Oh! It’s me.”
Today, we are celebrating a historic moment in our movement. This new division within AAS will allow suicide attempt survivors and those who support them to take an official seat at the table, enriching the field with more ethical and meaningful treatment, support, research and advocacy.
Let’s take a moment to celebrate this milestone together.
Survivors of loss like myself often find tremendous meaning in working in suicide prevention and can align well with the growing advocacy work by many suicide attempt survivors.
In turn, suicide attempt survivors can benefit from partnering with suicide loss survivors because, in many ways, we are on the same path. We start out feeling alone. Then we find out there are many others like us. We connect. We organize. We find our voice and create social change.
Suicide loss survivors have a bit of a head start in doing this, so we can stand in solidarity with suicide attempt survivors and strengthen their message.
I believe that together, we’re better.

To view the article: Click Here!

Dear Parents, from Teens book the First of Its Kind

Dear Parents, from Teens book the First of Its Kind
Written by teenagers for parents to prevent suicide

Lakewood, Colorado – May 19, 2013. Over the past two years students at Green Mountain High School have investigated innovative ways to get upstream from teen suicide and prevent crises from happening in the first place. As part of the FIRE Within program, a year-long curriculum teaching students to use the tools of social enterprise to address root causes of distress, these students made an important discovery. When they conducted their needs assessment of the issues related to youth despair, they found that depression and isolation were common experiences and that the teens were reaching out to their parents for support. They also found that the parents were sometimes messing it up. So, they decided to write a guidebook for parents to help improve parent-teen communication. For more information:

This month, the Green Mountain High School Business Leadership class students announce the publication of their book “Dear Parents, from Teens: Everything You Need to Know about Parent-Teen Communication”.  Student-written chapters include such topics as Transitions, Positivity, Acceptance, Peer Pressure, Money Issues, Bullying, Coping, Family, Relationships, Emotional Health, and Suicide Prevention.  Each chapter begins with a letter written by a teen to parents, followed by statistics, advice from teens, and resources.  The Business Leadership students partnered with the Carson J Spencer Foundation and the Jefferson Center for Mental Health in writing the book.  Books are on sale now for $15 each with the proceeds going back into the program and printing of the book.

Overview YouTube video here:

Van Davis, Business teacher said, “Recently the students hosted a parent workshop to share the book and provided an opportunity for parents to sit down with teens to answer questions and talk about parenting concerns.”  Other workshops are being planned for the fall of 2014. 

Principal, Colleen Owens stated “Our students in grades ten through twelve have spent two years writing this book.  They have poured their hearts into making it relevant for parents today.  We are very proud of this accomplishment”                      

About Green Mountain High School
Green Mountain High School is a premier comprehensive Jeffco high school where students, staff, parents, and community experience:
  • Rigorous academics: core, elective, Advanced Placement, and honors courses.
  • Academic Academy Pathways: valuable experiences through 4 Academies and  15 Pathways leading to multiple post-secondary opportunities.
§  Arts, Humanities & Performance
§  Business & Global Studies
§  Health & Human Services
§  Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM)

  • Strong community of positive interactions, a caring culture, and strong relationships among all stakeholders.