Accepting, acknowledging and preventing: Safehaven aims to educate on suicide awareness

suicide-prevention-1About 30 community members gathered at SafeHaven on Thursday afternoon for what the Colusa County Department of Behavioral Health described as a community healing event. The goal for the event, which took place during National Suicide Prevention Week, was two-fold: remember those who have been lost to suicide, and learn the signs and symptoms in order to help others.

Three different videos were shown during the event, which pertained to different facets of suicide — which is in and of itself often a difficult subject to talk about.

Creating a space to have an open dialogue about suicide, thoughts about suicide, and the stigma attached to it were an important part of the community healing event.

“I think it’s very important that we break down stigmas, so that people will be more willing to reach out, come to SafeHaven or Behavioral Health and seek out help. People often don’t want to reach out and talk about feelings of suicide,” said peer support specialist Valerie Stirling, who runs the day-to-day operations at SafeHaven.

There even a sort of stigma attached to those who have died by suicide — something that was touched upon by one of the videos and the conversation following it. That particular video told the story of a widow who had lost her husband to suicide.

SafeHaven aims to educate on suicide awareness Continued from page 1

“I think what the wife was saying was how people were accepting or not accepting of his death, of how it was suicide, and how people didn’t want to acknowledge it,” Colusa County’s former Mental Health Services Act coordinator Senaida Rangel said.

suicide-preventionThe event’s focus on accepting and acknowledging those who have died by suicide by placing them on a “Wall of Remembrance” was intended to break down that stigma.

The other videos shown on Thursday addressed a number groups at a higher risk of suicide, namely, veterans, and older individuals.

American Veterans (AMVETS) and the Veterans of Foreign Wars were both represented at the event. Paul Belleci, a member of AMVETS Post 50 and the veteran representative at SafeHaven, noted the importance of eliminating the stigma attached to talking about suicide, particularly in the veteran community.

“It’s really important, because 22 veterans a day are committing suicide,” Billeci said. “Senaida Rangel asked me to be there, because I am the veteran representative for SafeHaven, and AMVETS is the only veterans organization that has it’s own suicide prevention program. Speaking from the veterans’ standpoint, there is a culture that you gotta toughen up and drive on. Now, they are trying to reverse that and get people to look at the warning signs in their buddies.”

“We want people to -— you don’t need to be members of SafeHaven or Behavioral Health. That’s why I started doing Veterans Representative stuff at SafeHaven. A vet would rather, usually, speak to another veteran rather than a clinician. A lot of times, all someone needs is someone to talk to that will listen.”

Beyond breaking down the stigma, the event on Thursday also focused on preventing suicide by learning and knowing the signs, finding the words, and reaching out.

Know the Signs

The warning signs of emotional pain or suicidal thoughts aren’t always obvious. Here’s what to look for:

Talking about wanting to die or suicide

Feeling hopeless, desperate or trapped

Giving away possessions

Putting affairs in order

Reckless Behavior

Anger

Increased drug or alcohol use

Withdrawl

Anxiety or agitation

Changes in sleep

Sudden mood changes

No sense of purpose

Find The Words

As difficult as they might be to say to a loved one, the words “Are you thinking of ending your life?” are the most important you could say.

Start the conversation: mention the warning signs you are noticing

Ask about suicide: “Are you thinking about suicide?”

Listen: Express your concern and reassure

Reach Out

You are not alone: step in or speak up, even if you see only one warning sign. You don’t have to do it alone. To find resources and more information, visit suicideispreventable.org. If you think a person is suicidal, don’t leave them alone. Call the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline if you are in crisis or concerned about someone: 1-(800) 273-TALK [8255].

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Brian Pearson is the Managing Editor & Reporter for the Williams Pioneer Review. Brian joined the Williams Pioneer Review in June 2016 and is committed to bringing hyperlocal news to its readers. A few of his projects include reporting on local government and the newly feature sports page. To contact Brian about this article, or for future articles, please email him at brian@colusacountynews.net