Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Resilient Factors

Guest Blog by Ashley Herbst

          A famous band once crooned, “Who told you life wasn’t worth the fight? Only G-d knows what went wrong, and why you’d leave the stage in the middle of a song” (Rascal Flatts, 2009). According to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC), in 2012 suicide was the second leading cause of death for youth and young adults between the ages of 10 and 18 years old; yet, what most don’t recognize is that the number of deaths by suicide for incarcerated youth is three times this number (21.9 per 10,000), making it the leading cause of death for detained youth. The tragedy among juvenile detention centers and residential treatment facilities is not only that suicide is the leading cause of death amongst the youth, but also that many of these facilities are not implementing or utilizing best practices or effective and evidence-based services to those in need. Although there has been a significant increase in the efforts to eliminate suicide over the past ten years, especially in teens and through risk assessment, not enough time and effort is dedicated toward prevention and intervention methods as identifying, encouraging, and supporting resilient factors within incarcerated youth.
 Acknowledging and addressing resilient factors has been identified as extremely valuable and encouraged as a best practice by research and mental health professionals. Also known as “protective factors,” resilient factors are conditions, interests, and qualities that “promote strength and resilience and ensure that vulnerable individuals are supported and connected with others during difficult times” (It Only Takes One, 2015, p.1). These include access to effective, empathetic, and competent mental and physical health care, strong connections to support from one’s family and community, problem-solving and adaptive conflict resolution skills, and social activities (It Only Takes One, 2015). In fact, a study performed by Taliaferro, Rienzo, Miller, Pigg, and Dodd (2008) found that for adolescent males, the risk of hopelessness and suicidality were reduced by frequent vigorous activity; and for females the experience of hopelessness was present and stronger in adolescent females who endorsed and demonstrated low levels of physical activity. Not only does this suggest that providing adolescents and young adults with social and/or physical activities outside of their home and school may be beneficial to their physical, and therefore mental health; but it also suggests that activities may instigate and facilitate social support- an invaluable factor of resilience in youth. Finding an interest, creative outlet, or topic of discussion is a simple start, then moving onto talents, skills, and values can also help. Involving family, friends, and/or community resources is also recognized as a beneficial action step to demonstrate that the youth is not alone, and belongs somewhere. Working with the youth to identify dreams, goals, values, and/or anything future related can instill hope and purpose (D. Beck, personal communication, August 8, 2015).
The tragedy among juvenile detention centers and residential treatment facilities is not only that suicide is the leading cause of death amongst the youth, but also that many of these facilities are not implementing or utilizing best practices or effective and evidence-based services to those in need. Identifying, discussing and/or supporting resilient factors in an at-risk youth has been empirically shown to be one of those best practices in prevention and intervention efforts. To bring things full circle, life is meant to be lived, and all professionals working in or with the Juvenile Justice system have the opportunity to stop an incarcerated youth from leaving the stage in the middle of a song (Rascal Flatts, 2009).
*****

Ashley Herbst is a second-year Psy.D. student in the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Professional Psychology. She earned her M.S. in clinical psychology at Loyola University of Maryland in 2014, and has a special interest in adolescents and young adults involved in the justice system. She can be contacted at aherbst@du.edu.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Impact a Student's Life on Colorado Gives Day


One of CJSF's most groundbreaking initiatives is our youth entrepreneurship FIRE Within program. The FIRE Within is a unique opportunity for high school students to significantly impact their school and community by creating sustainable, revenue generating businesses that directly address root causes of mental health distress and promote suicide prevention.

On December 8th, Colorado will celebrate a statewide day of giving - Colorado Gives Day. On December 8th, your gifts go further. Please click here to schedule your Sponsor a Student gift.

One Colorado High School shares their story:
By November 2014 two ninth grade students had died by suicide and several more were identified as having suicide plans. While typically an upper classman curriculum, this school took on FIRE Within with a group of freshman, identified at high risk of dropping out of school due to poor academic performance, low attendance, substance abuse, gang involvement, and other challenges. The students set out to create a social enterprise addressing widespread issues of distrust within their community. The students' goal was to open lines of communication between youth and adults, to build a more cohesive student community, and to reduce stigma around help-seeking behavior. Through the FIRE Within program, the class showed continual increases in academics, attendance, class and school engagement, improved teamwork skills and class cohesion, better understanding of school and social issues, and increased self-confidence.
"I am shocked at the transformation some of these students have made...This program showed these kids how they could use their natural talents for something that serves a community in need." - FIRE Within Educator
Over six hundred students participate in the FIRE Within each year. Please consider helping us continue providing this opportunity by "Sponsoring a Student". Your sponsorship will cover academic materials and program costs for one student for the full year. For just $20 per month, you can forever impact the future of an entrepreneurial high school student, and make a difference to an entire community!

As we embark on a new year, we take time to reflect and show gratitude for the many milestones and successes of 2015. Thank you for all you do to make suicide prevention a health and safety priority.


With Gratitude,






Sally Spencer-Thomas
Co-Founder and CEO

Friday, November 20, 2015

Diane Saslow: My Journey to Find Meaning After My Daughter's Suicide

By Emily Alvarez

International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is the one day a year when people affected by suicide loss gather around the world at events in their local communities to find comfort and gain understanding as they share stories of healing and hope. We have learned that stories of lived experience are one of the best ways to fight the stigma of mental illness and suicide and to help get people involved in the movement. In honor of Survivor Day, we have chosen to highlight the story of a survivor who has made significant contributions to the field by investing her time, making financial contributions, and providing of emotional support to other survivors.

Diane Saslow lost her daughter, Emily, to suicide ten years ago. This is her story:

Emily Saslow was/is a daughter, sister, cousin, and friend to many.  She died by suicide on October 17, 2005 at 26 years old.  Emily was the one who always was smiling and laughing in any picture taken of her.  She is also the one in the group who lived with unrelenting mental illness, an illness she fought against for most if not all of her 26 years. 
Emily Saslow
Emily packed a lot of living into her 26 years. She excelled at school, college and law school – she participated in sports, she spent many years taking modern dance lessons and performed with a junior dance troop in Denver, she travelled and had a wide circle of friends.  Even while nurturing and enjoying friendships Emily had a tough time with interactions with people.  She constantly fought against terrible low self-esteems mainly because her illness kept her from understanding how exceptional she was.  She hid her insecurities well, and what a struggle that must have been for her. She loved the law and enjoyed her years in law school and she spent many holidays travelling all over the world with friends. I am very proud of Emily for managing to live for 26 years. 
Emily’s suicide was done with great intention.  It was not a gesture gone awry.  At 26 years old she wanted out of this life and she researched the methods that would allow her to leave.  
Even though it is 10 years after her death, I don’t think my mourning has ended.  There is a space that will never be filled in my heart and head, and there will always be an empty chair wherever I am.  I no longer go to the phone to call her to tell her something funny or interesting, I just play it in my head and am soothed by my one sided conversations with her.
Emily fought valiantly against this illness from a very young age.  She had therapy and medication.  Emily died from a disease.  Just like people who die from cancer or heart ailments. Like many parents who have lost a child to an illness, I have spent the ten years since her death working to do my part to prevent this from happening to others. I do the best I can to help those with depression have the courage to get help, and be very honest during treatment when they do get help. 
Diane and Emily Saslow at a wedding
I continue to make meaning of my loss by speaking to high school and college students and supporting the FIRE Within program.  I have also participated in the annual American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Community Walks, raising funds for research and programs that help to erase the stigma of mental illness and suicide.  I co-facilitate a monthly Survivors of Suicide support group where I give direction and hope to others who are newly walking this difficult path after losing a loved one to suicide.  Emily always helped others; she taught dance at an afterschool program to elementary school students who otherwise would not have had the opportunity to experience learn about the world of modern dance and all it can open for people. 
I hope the work I am doing in the suicide prevention world is work that she would be proud of. 
When I speak with people who are recent survivors of a loved one’s suicide I am gentle. I try to communicate that however they are feeling, they will feel differently months and years down the road.  They will not feel better, but they will feel different. Once they acclimate to their “new normal” they will enjoy life’s daily pleasures, even though it seems impossible to believe that early in the grieving and mourning process.  And most of all they will never lose or leave their dead loved one behind; they will take them with them on their healing path – because getting better does not mean losing your relationship with the dead.

The effects of a suicide loss are long-lasting and far-reaching.  Many survivors look for ways to make meaning out of their loss and celebrate the life of their loved one. There are many wonderful organizations that provide life-saving suicide prevention programming. The Carson J Spencer Foundation elevates the conversation to make suicide prevention a health and safety priority. Through a variety of prevention programs, Carson J Spencer Foundation is changing the face of suicide loss. Whether you partner with our organization, or another, we encourage you to get involved. Giving a gift, in memory of a loved one lost, can help create the meaning that so many seek.

On December 8th, Colorado will celebrate a statewide day of giving – Colorado Gives Day.  On December 8th, your gifts go further, thanks to a $1,000,000 incentive fund created by Community First Foundation and FirstBank.  To schedule a Colorado Gives Day gift to the Carson J Spencer Foundation, please visit https://www.coloradogives.org/index.php?section=organizations&action=newDonation&fwID=28207



Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Special Focus on “Military/Veterans” and New Man Therapy Resources

By Sally Spencer-Thomas

The constant beat of the major media drum often paints a grim picture of Veterans and suicide. Sometimes we wonder if these messages become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Consistent headline include data such as
  • Approximately 22 Veterans die by suicide each day (about one every 65 minutes).
  • In 2012, suicide deaths outpaced combat deaths, with 349 active-duty suicide; on average about one per day.
  • The suicide rate among Veterans (30 per 100,00) is double the civilian rate.

Listening to this regular narrative a collective concern and urgency emerges on how best to support our Veterans who are transitioning back to civilian jobs and communities. Many Veterans have a number of risk factors for suicide contributing to the dire suicide statistics mentioned above including:
  • A strong identity in a fearless, stoic, risk-taking and macho culture
  • Exposure to trauma and possible traumatic brain injury
  • Common practices of self-medication through substance abuse
  • Strong stigmatizing view of mental illness

Thus, employers and others who would like to support Veterans are not always clear on how to be a "military-friendly community." What is often not always expressed in these media reports about statistics and risks is the incredible resilience and resourcefulness our Veterans have when facing many daunting challenges and the many ways that they have learned to cope.

The Carson J Spencer Foundation and our Man Therapy partners Cactus and Colorado's Office of Suicide Prevention set out to learn more about these questions and conducted a six-month needs and strength assessment involving two in-person focus groups and two national focus groups with representation from Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps and family perspectives.

When asked how we could best reach them, what issues they'd like to see addressed, and what resources they need, here is what they told us:

"I think that when you reach out to the Vets, do it with humor and compassion...Give them something to talk about in the humor, they will come back when no on is looking for the compassion." They often mentioned they preferred a straightforward approach that wasn't overly statistical, clinical or wordy.

Make seeking help easy. A few mentioned they liked an anonymous opportunity to check out their mental health from the privacy of their own home. Additionally, a concern exists among Veterans who assume some other service member would need a resource more, so they hesitate to seek help, in part, because they don't want to take away a resource from "someone who may really need it." Having universal access through the Internet gets around this issue.

New content requests: "We need to honor the warrior in transition. The loss of identity is a big deal along with camaraderie and cohesion. Who I was, who I am now, who I am going to be..." The top request for content was about how to manage the transition from military life to civilian life. The loss of identity and not knowing who "has your back" is significant. Several were incredibly concerned about being judged for PTS (no "D"-- as the stress response they experience is a normal response to an abnormal situation). Requests for content also included:
  1. Post-traumatic stress and growth
  2. Traumatic brain injury
  3. Military sexual trauma
  4. Fatherhood and relationships, especially during deployment

Finally, they offered some suggestions on the best ways to reach Veterans are through trusted peers, family members and leaders with "vicarious credibility."

Because of these needs and suggestions, an innovative online tool called "Man Therapy" now offers male Military/Veterans a new way to self-assess for mental health challenges and link to resources.

In addition to mental health support, many other things can be done to support Veterans
In conclusion, we owe it to our service members to provide them with resources and support and to listen carefully to the challenges and barriers that prevent them from fully thriving. Learn how you can be a part of the solution instead of just focusing on the problem.

*****


REFERENCES
US Department of Veteran Affairs (2013, February 1). U.S. military veteran suicide rise, one dies every 65 minutes. Reuters, Retrieved from mobile.reuters.com. July 2,2015

Hargarten, J., Buurnson, F., Campo, B., and Cook, C. (2013, August 24) Veteran suicides: Twice as high as civilian rates. Retrieved from backhome.news21.com/article/suicide/ July 2, 2015




Thursday, October 8, 2015

Healthy Men Have Healthy Minds: A Forum to Engage Men in Dialogue about Mental Health

By Emily Alvarez

In 2013, Colorado ranked 7th in the nation for suicide rates, a persistent trend shared by other states in the West. Men continue to account for more than 75% of the deaths by suicide in Colorado and contributing factors to this are divorce, depression, isolation, and substance abuse. The 1st annual Men’s Mental Health Forum is there to ask the question “why?” and begin to discuss some answers. The Mental Health Forum called Healthy Men Have Healthy Minds: A Forum to Engage Men in Dialogue about Mental Health is supported by the Carson J Spencer Foundation, contributing co-founder of Man Therapy (www.ManTherapy.org), and Sondermind, whole person wellness. The forum will take place on Thursday, November 19, 2015 from 2:15 – 5:00 pm in the Russell Pavilion at the St. Joseph’s Hospital. Tickets are $25 until 11/6 and $40 afterward. For more information, visit www.CarsonJSpencer.org or contact Sally Spencer-Thomas at sally@carsonjspencer.org or (720) 244-6535.
The forum features two keynote speakers: Josh Levs and Andrew O’Brien. Josh Levs is an investigative journalist formerly with CNN and NPR, an expert on issues facing modern families and author of All In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families, and Businesses--And How We Can Fix It Together. Levs will be talking about what modern life is doing to dads’ mental health. Andrew O’Brien is an Iraq war veteran and suicide attempt survivor. After being lucky enough to wake up after his attempt, Andrew decided to make a difference for all communities suffering from suicide. O’Brien will be sharing lessons learned in resiliency.

“Mental health is just like any other part of health. It's time to drop the stigmas and have public conversations about the stresses and challenges men are facing,” said Josh Levs, keynote speaker. “This is why All In explores health issues facing men in both body and mind.  It's also why I open up about my own experiences.”

The goals of the forum are to let men know they are not alone when feeling overwhelmed, stressed or depressed, to educate participants about men-friendly mental health and support resources, and to build a community of men who are interested in supporting other men going through life challenges. Other subjects that will be discussed during the forum are work-life balance, stress management, living with a mental health condition, rebuilding your life after divorce, and tools for recovery.

“For a man to be the strongest and most present father, partner, employee, friend and family member, strong mental health is paramount,” said Jarrod Hindman, Violence and Suicide Prevention Section Manager at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “Owning when we need a mental health tune-up is a strength, and now is the time to make it the norm

Immediately following the forum, there will be the 4th annual Guy’s Night Out held at Casselman’s Bar and Venue from 5:30 – 9:00 pm on November 19th. Here men can mingle with local music and sports celebrities at the VIP reception, sip bourbon, eat BBQ and even get their golf swing analyzed – all in the name of supporting an innovative approach to men’s mental health. Tickets are $100 for just Guy’s Night Out or $115 if combined with the Mental Health Forum. For more information, visit www.CarsonJSpencer.org.

Proceeds from Guys Night Out go to the Carson J Spencer Foundation and the Man Therapy™ campaign (www.ManTherapy.org) aimed at using humor to prevent suicide for working-aged men. By using compelling and innovative media, Dr. Rich Mahogany (a fictional therapist), the focal point of an innovative campaign called “Man Therapy,™” reshapes the conversation, using manly approaches to cut through stigma and tackle issues like depression, divorce and even suicidal thoughts head on, the way a man would do it. An additional beneficiary is Project Sanctuary (http://projectsanctuary.us), a non-profit supporting military families through therapeutic retreats.

Guy’s Night Out video from 2013: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npeyhD0nwYQ

Register now, as there is limited seating for the forum. To register and learn more about the speakers and the event, visit www.CarsonJSpencer.org. Contact Sally Spencer-Thomas at sally@carsonjspencer.org or (720) 244-6535 with any questions.

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About the Carson J Spencer Foundation - Sustaining a Passion for Living
The Carson J Spencer Foundation (www.CarsonJSpencer.org) is a Colorado nonprofit, established in 2005.  We envision a world where leaders and communities are committed to sustaining a passion for living. We sustain a passion for living by:

  • Delivering innovative and effective suicide prevention programs for working-aged people
  • Coaching young leaders to develop social enterprises for mental health promotion and suicide prevention
  • Supporting people bereaved by suicide

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Hope Illuminated: Annual Suicide Prevention Conference on September 29th and 30th in Chatham, Ontario, Canada

John D. Bradley Chatham-Kent
Convention Centre, Chatham, Ontario
As a clinical psychologist, mental health advocate, faculty member, consumer of mental health services, and survivor of her brother’s suicide, Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas sees issues of suicide prevention and mental health promotion from many perspectives. Spencer-Thomas will be speaking at the Erie St. Clair LHIN & Canadian Mental Health Association Suicide Prevention Conference on September 29th & 30th at the John D. Bradley Chatham-Kent Convention Centre in Chatham, Ontario, Canada. She will be community health and mental health professionals, educators, emergency personnel, interested community members, and families and survivors on how the suicide continuum impacts communities, and what communities can do to make suicide prevention a health and safety priority. The presentation will also assist participants on how to respond should a suicide tragedy strike.  For more information on the event contact Ellie Fraser 519-436-6100 or EFraser@cmhalambtonkent.ca.

Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas is currently the CEO of the Carson J Spencer Foundation, a Colorado-based national organization dedicated to leading i

nnovation in suicide prevention. She is also the past Director of the Survivor of Suicide Loss Division with the American Association of Suicidology, and is the Co-Lead of the Workplace Task Force with the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.

Sally Spencer-Thomas
Presenting in Ontario
“As a proud mental health professional, it’s an honor to come back and help build suicide prevention capacity in others,” said Spencer-Thomas.

Within her role as CEO of the Carson J Spencer Foundation, Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas has established and founded Working Minds, the nation’s first comprehensive suicide prevention program exclusively dedicated to suicide prevention in the workplace; founded the FIRE Within program for youth and social entrepreneurs; and, was the principal partner on the award-winning Man Therapy social marketing campaign.

Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas has received wide recognition for her work and has been an invited guest to the White House Briefing on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention in DC and to the World Health Organization’s World Suicide Report Launch in Geneva.  As a professional speaker, Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas has presented around the world and for organizations such as the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Department of Energy and the FBI.





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About the Carson J Spencer Foundation - Sustaining a Passion for Living
The Carson J Spencer Foundation (www.CarsonJSpencer.org) is a Colorado nonprofit, established in 2005.  We envision a world where leaders and communities are committed to sustaining a passion for living. As leaders in innovation in suicide prevention, our mission is to elevate the conversation to make suicide prevention a health and safety priority. We do this by:

  • Delivering innovative and effective suicide prevention programs for working-aged people
  • Coaching young leaders to develop social enterprises for mental health promotion and suicide prevention
  • Supporting people bereaved by suicide

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Be a Shining Light of Hope: Suicide Prevention Training at Bowdoin College on September 23rd in Brunswick, ME

Bowdoin College,
Brunswick, Maine
As a clinical psychologist, mental health advocate, faculty member, consumer of mental health services, and survivor of her brother’s suicide, Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas sees issues of suicide prevention and mental health promotion from many perspectives. Spencer-Thomas will speaking at to faculty and staff at Bowdoin College during the day, then doing a community keynote from 7:00 – 8:00 pm on September 23, 2015. She will be addressing faculty and students as well as community members on how the suicide continuum impacts communities, and what communities can do to make suicide prevention a health and safety priority. The presentation will also assist participants on how to respond should a suicide tragedy strike.  For more information on the event contact Sara Eddy 207-725-3079 or seddy@bowdoin.edu.

Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas is currently the CEO of the Carson J Spencer Foundation, a Colorado-based national organization dedicated to leading innovation in suicide prevention. She is also the past Director of the Survivor of Suicide Loss Division with the American Association of Suicidology, and is the Co-Lead of the Workplace Task Force with the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.

Sally Spencer-Thomas,
CEO & Co-Founder
“As a proud alumnus from Bowdoin College, it’s an honor to come back and help build suicide prevention capacity in my alma mater,” said Spencer-Thomas.

Within her role as CEO of the Carson J Spencer Foundation, Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas has established and founded Working Minds, the nation’s first comprehensive suicide prevention program exclusively dedicated to suicide prevention in the workplace; founded the FIRE Within program for youth and social entrepreneurs; and, was the principal partner on the award-winning Man Therapy social marketing campaign.

Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas has received wide recognition for her work and has been an invited guest to the White House Briefing on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention in DC and to the World Health Organization’s World Suicide Report Launch in Geneva.  As a professional speaker, Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas has presented around the world and for organizations such as the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Department of Energy and the FBI.

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About the Carson J Spencer Foundation - Sustaining a Passion for Living
The Carson J Spencer Foundation (www.CarsonJSpencer.org) is a Colorado nonprofit, established in 2005.  We envision a world where leaders and communities are committed to sustaining a passion for living. As leaders in innovation in suicide prevention, our mission is to elevate the conversation to make suicide prevention a health and safety priority. We do this by:

  • Delivering innovative and effective suicide prevention programs for working-aged people
  • Coaching young leaders to develop social enterprises for mental health promotion and suicide prevention
  • Supporting people bereaved by suicide

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Reaching Out and Saving Lives: World Suicide Prevention Day Event Honors and Remembers All Those Affected by Suicide

By Emily Alvarez

“If you have lost a loved one or friend to suicide, please light a candle in their memory. If you are a survivor of your own suicide crisis or mental health condition or because you care deeply about someone else who has faced these difficult challenges, please light a candle to honor the struggle and the overcoming of it. Finally if you support the cause of suicide prevention and mental health promotion for another reason, we ask you to light a candle to honor this reason.”

Everyone has a reason to light a candle. Last week, 30 people from all walks of life joined the Carson J Spencer Foundation and the Denver Fire Department at a Candle-Lighting Ceremony to recognize all those affected by suicide. The gathering was held at Cheesman Park Pavilion, 1177 Race St, Denver, Denver, CO, September 10th, 7:00pm-8:00pm. A Chaplain with the Denver Fire Department, Chief Warren Mitchell of the Denver Fire Department and Jess Stohlmann-Rainey of Carson J Spencer Foundation spoke during the ceremony.

“This is worldwide—800,000 people die by suicide each year. That is the equivalent of 4,000 airline jets crashing every year. Yet we don’t hear about the suicide deaths, and that is because of stigma” said Chaplain Ron Biegler.

There are a lot of scary statistics when it comes to suicide and a lot of people see them as depressing and not uplifting. We know that lived experience is just as important as science and statistics and value that with just as much importance. We find that including stories of lived experience can connect with people and potentially get them help.

“It is a social justice issue that people who desperately need help are unable to access services because of stigma and discrimination,” said Jess Stohlmann-Rainey, Senior Program Director of CJSF. “It is an injustice that someone’s life circumstances, identity, or mental health condition can be so painful that they see no other path to relief. It is an injustice that staying alive can be the hardest thing a person has to do.”

Jess uses her lived experience to fight stigma and social injustice. By making a commitment to suicide prevention, she is making sure that another 15 year old girl knows how to ask for help before her darkest moment, and that her parents, friends, and community know how to help her when she can’t help herself.

Three years ago, the Denver Fire Department was rocked by a suicide within their ranks. That is what started the extremely beneficial partnership between them and CJSF. The DFD has taken suicide prevention very seriously and take great strides to include it in their total wellness programs.

“The mission of the Denver Fire Department peer support program is to ensure that firefighters in need know there is someone to help ‘who has walked in their shoes,’” said Assistant Chief Warren Mitchell, one of the DFD peer support leaders. “Nearly everyone in our department has been affected by suicide, whether through the loss of a loved one, individual mental health struggles, or responding to a call. At this candle lighting, we will honor people we have lost, survivors, and those who respond.”

Chaplain Ron Biegler ended the evening with an old Irish blessing:
“May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rain falls soft upon your fields and,
Until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.”

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Reaching Out and Saving Lives: World Suicide Prevention Day Event Honors and Remembers All Those Affected by Suicide

WSPD GraphicEach year people from all over the globe light a candle to honor World Suicide Prevention Day. Most light a candle in memory of someone they love who has died by suicide. Some light a candle to honor suicide attempt survivors and the resiliency they demonstrate in their journey to recovery. This year the Carson J Spencer Foundation and the Denver Fire Department will co-host a Candle-Lighting Ceremony to recognize all those affected by suicide. The gathering is free and open to the public and will be held at Cheesman Park Pavilion, 1599 E. 8th Avenue, Denver, CO on Thursday, September 10th from 7:00pm-8:00pm. For more information visit: www.CarsonJSpencer.org.

“We used to call family members who lost loved ones to suicide ‘suicide survivors,’ and we estimated that on average about six people were profoundly affected,” said Sally Spencer-Thomas, CEO & Co-Founder of the Carson J Spencer Foundation. “New research tells us that when we consider the first responders, classmates, co-workers, neighbors, and many others, that number is actually much closer to 115.”

The event partnership between the Carson J Spencer Foundation, a Denver-based nonprofit and the Denver Fire Department will highlight the many ways people are impacted by suicide, and the importance of community connection in the healing process.

“Firefighters have the exceptional honor of being involved in the lives of others during some of the most profound moments in their lives.  We view our job as a family, an identity, a calling,” said Warren Mitchell, Assistant Chief for the Denver Fire Department.

All those affected by suicide are invited to attend to light a candle, honor and remember including but not limited to:
  • Suicide loss survivors and suicide attempt survivor
  • First responders
  • Witnesses
  • Family members
  • Therapists
  • Close friends
  • Health Care workers
  • Community members
  • Schools & workplaces
  • Acquaintances
  • Fans of celebrities
  • Community groups (sporting clubs)

For more information about the Candle-lighting Ceremony or to get involved in suicide prevention contact Sally Spencer-Thomas Sally@CarsonJSpencer.org or visit www.CarsonJSpencer.org or 720-244-6535.

Video on firefighters coping with the aftermath of suicide here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ryy7EyAiyeQ

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About the Carson J Spencer Foundation (www.CarsonJSpencer.org) is a Colorado nonprofit, established in 2005. We envision a world where leaders and communities are committed to sustaining a passion for living. We elevate the conversation to make suicide prevention a health and safety priority. We sustain a passion for living by:
  • Delivering innovative and effective suicide prevention programs for working-aged people.
  • Coaching young leaders to develop social enterprises for mental health promotion and suicide prevention.
  • Supporting people bereaved by suicide.
Contact: Sally Spencer-Thomas, PsyD, CEO & Co-Founder, 720-244-6535, sally@carsonjspencer.org

6 Things to Do to Prevent Suicides

by 

Permission to post by International Thought Leadership



This year, for World Suicide Prevention Day, the theme is “Reaching Out to Save Lives” – a message all employers can use to let people know that everyone can play a role in suicide prevention. The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s Workplace Task Force members and the organizations they serve offer the top six things workplaces can do during the month of September to make prevention a health and safety priority:

  1. Offer a Leadership Proclamation: “Not Another Life to Lose”
Members of executive leadership can take bold and visible positions declaring suicide prevention and mental health promotion critical workplace concerns. This proclamation can be in the form of a newsletter to employees or a video on a website.
  1. Highlight Mental Health Resources
Host a brown bag lunch program each day for the week. Invite employee assistance program (EAP) representatives or other local mental health professionals to offer educational session on stress, work-life balance, coping with depression or other related topics.
Offer a mental health fair where local suicide prevention, mental health or other wellness resources share more information and employees get a “passport” stamped for each one they visit. Completed passports go into a drawing for a prize.
Send resources to employees such as:
  1. Launch a Mental Wellness Task Force
A true comprehensive and sustained public health approach to prevention will take more than an awareness week or one-time training. To create significant change, a more strategic approach is needed. Start by pulling together a small group of stakeholders – people whose job titles reflect some level of relevance to this issue (i.e., wellness, HR, risk management, safety) and others who are passionate about prevention because it has touched their lives personally. Their task? To identify culturally relevant areas of strength and vulnerability for suicide within the organization and to develop a strategic approach to change.
Here are some resources:
  1. Leverage Social Media
During this week, companies can join the international conversation by posting on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Sample posts:
    • [Name of company or Twitter handle] makes #suicideprevention a health and safety priority #WSPD15
    • [Name of company or Twitter handle] We are doing our part to #preventsuicide during #NSPW. Everyone can play a role!
  • Hashtags:
    • National Suicide Prevention Week (Sept. 7-13)
      • #NSPW
      • #NSPW15
      • #SuicidePrevention
    • World Suicide Prevention Day (Sept. 10)
      • #WSPD
      • #WSPD15
    • Workplace
      • #WorkplaceMH
      • #WorkingMinds
    • Guidelines on social media and mental health.
  1. Honor Suicide Loss With Candle-Lighting Ceremony
How companies respond to the aftermath of suicide matters greatly. Grief and trauma support, thoughtful communication and compassionate leadership can help a workforce make the transition from immobilization to a bonded community.
Here are some resources:
  1. Donate to or Volunteer for Local or National Suicide Prevention Organizations
Engaging in community prevention efforts is a great way for employees to give back and to get to know the local resources available. Corporate investments in prevention programs and research will help us get ahead of the problem. Get involved!
Here are some resources:

About the Author

description_hereSally Spencer-Thomas, Psy.D., is the CEO of the Carson J Spencer Foundation, the Survivor Division director for the American Association for Suicidology and the Workplace Task Force co-lead for the National Alliance for Suicide Prevention. Dr. Spencer-Thomas is a professional speaker and trainer, presenting nationally and internationally on the topic of suicide prevention, and has published four books on mental health. She also maintains a blog on issues related to suicide prevention in the workplace.  

Friday, August 28, 2015

Stand Together: An Action Alliance Event Series Talking About Men in Their Middle Years and Suicide

Experts to discuss the issue of suicide among this hard-to-reach demographic group

WASHINGTON – Recent data indicates around 80 percent of suicides in the United States are completed by men, and men between the ages of 50-59 have had a near 50 percent increase in suicides in recent years. Unemployment, relationship difficulties, social isolation, loss of a loved one and other life transitions are just a few of the factors that increase suicide risk among middle-aged men. Compounding the risk is the fact that this population has historically been reluctant to seek help. 

On Wednesday, Sept. 2 — the beginning of Suicide Prevention Month — the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention will host a panel of leading suicide experts, influencers and men with personal experience with suicide. They will discuss suicide among men in their middle years and how to better connect this population with critical sources of support.

This panel affords an opportunity to report on a newsworthy discussion during Suicide Prevention Month, and will provide a convenient platform for collecting quotes from suicide prevention experts and influencers.

EVENT DETAILS:
What: Panel discussion and media availability, “Talking About Men in Their Middle Years and Suicide”
When: Wednesday, Sept. 2, 1–2 p.m. EDT
Where: Conference Call

Confirmed panelists include:

§  Dwight Hollier, L.P.C., Retired professional football player; Vice President, Wellness and Clinical Services
§  Deb Stone, Sc.D., M.S.W., M.P.H.; Behavioral Scientist, National Institute of Mental Health
§  Sally Spencer-Thomas, Ph.D., Co-founder and CEO, Carson J. Spencer Foundation, ManTherapy.org; Survivor Division Chair, American Association of Suicidology
§  Brett “Zach” Zachman, Speaking on personal experience
§  Jack Benson [Moderator], Action Alliance EXCOM member; Co-lead, Public Awareness and Education Task Force

TO ATTEND THE PANEL DISCUSSION: Register here.

TO JOIN THE CONVERSATION ON SOCIAL MEDIA: Use #SuicideReporting

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Action Alliance (www.ActionAllianceforSuicidePrevention.org) is the public-private partnership working to advance the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention and make suicide prevention a national priority. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, through the Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC) operates the Secretariat for the Action Alliance, which was launched in 2010 by former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates with the goal of saving 20,000 lives in five years.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Guardian of the Golden Gate: Retired California Patrolman Prevented Over 200 People from Jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge

Sgt. Kevin Briggs,
Guardian of the Golden Gate
For two decades, Sergeant Kevin Briggs patrolled one of San Francisco's most famous landmarks. For more than 200 people, he served as the bridge between hope and despair as he listened to their struggles with compassion and helped convince them life was worth another try. On August 27th, 2015 Sgt. Briggs will share his story of hope to over 400 people in a keynote presentation at the Carson J Spencer Foundation’s Shining Lights of Hope Gala, 5:30pm at Wings Over the Rockies. For more information visit: www.CarsonJSpencer.org.

Sgt. Kevin Briggs, Sally Spencer-Thomas
and Kevin Berthia

Briggs is known as the "Guardian of the Golden Gate." A book of the same name chronicles his experiences with people preparing to jump to their deaths into San Francisco Bay.

One of the most famous rescues has captured the minds and hearts of many. In 2005, 22-year-old Kevin Berthia balanced on a narrow rail 220 feet above the bay ready to jump. Sgt. Briggs is leaned over the rail and listened intently to Berthia’s troubles for 90-minutes. Eventually, Briggs was able to convince Berthia to climb back over and to get him psychiatric help. Eight years later the two men were reunited, Berthia now with three children and a thriving career. Together they share a powerful message about the power of connection.

“Kevin’s message of compassion is particularly appropriate for our event this year,” said Sally Spencer-Thomas, CEO & Co-Founder of the Carson J Spencer Foundation. “We are honoring the work of first responders in their roles as rescuers and fellow grievers during calls of suicide, and as people who also experience suicide among their own ranks.”
Sgt. Kevin Brigss with Kevin Berthia

Brigg’s story and experiences has been featured at the TED2014 conference, The New Yorker Magazine, CNN, Men’s Health Magazine, NBC Nightly News, NPR’s Bob Edwards Radio Show, People Magazine, and USA Today.

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About the Carson J Spencer Foundation - Sustaining a Passion for Living
The Carson J Spencer Foundation (www.CarsonJSpencer.org) is a Colorado nonprofit, established in 2005.  We envision a world where leaders and communities are committed to sustaining a passion for living. Our mission is to elevate the conversation to make suicide prevention a health and safety priority. We do this by:
  • Delivering innovative and effective suicide prevention programs for working-aged people
  • Coaching young leaders to develop social enterprises for mental health promotion and suicide prevention
  • Supporting people bereaved by suicide


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

National Public Radio Recognized for Leadership in Suicide Prevention

Carson J Spencer Foundation Gives “Media All-Star Award” at Denver Gala Reception

For the past year, National Public Radio has been covering suicide the right way. In the past year alone they have covered over 100 challenging stories about the devastating impact of suicide as well as science and stories of hope and recovery.  For their leadership in journalism and safe and effective reporting, NPR will receive this year’s “All-Star Media Award” from the Carson J Spencer Foundation. From their headquarters in Washington, D.C., Scott Hensley, Editor/Founder of NPR Shots Blog, will be present to accept the award on August 27th, 2014 at 5:30pm at Wings Over the Rockies in Denver. During this event CJSF will celebrate its 11th Annual Shining Lights of Hope Gala and the 10th Anniversary of the Foundation. For more information visit: www.CarsonJSpencer.org.

“The fact that we’re getting an award because of our coverage on it shows that we’re doing our duty as reporters,” said Lulu Miller, Host, ‘Invisibilia’.

The “Media All-Star Award” goes each year to a media company or journalist who leverages the power of communication to share critical stories about suicide and its prevention while following the national safe messaging guidelines. Previous award winners include:
  • 2014 Facebook
  • 2013 Denver Post
  • 2012 9News

“Even with the wide range of health coverage that NPR undertakes every day, it’s especially rewarding to see a foundation like the Carson J Spencer Foundation has noticed and appreciates the work that we have done,” Scott Hensley, Editor/Founder, NPR Shots Blog said.



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About the Carson J Spencer Foundation - Sustaining a Passion for Living
The Carson J Spencer Foundation (www.CarsonJSpencer.org) is a Colorado nonprofit, established in 2005.  We envision a world where leaders and communities are committed to sustaining a passion for living. Our mission is to elevate the conversation to make suicide prevention a health and safety priority. We do this by:

  • Delivering innovative and effective suicide prevention programs for working-aged people
  • Coaching young leaders to develop social enterprises for mental health promotion and suicide prevention
  • Supporting people bereaved by suicide