That question is one no one ever wants to ask themselves, but it is one that never goes away for the family and friends of suicide victims.
Polk County’s Crisis Intervention Team, comprised of law enforcement, mental health and medical professionals from the area, hopes to prevent people from having to ask themselves “What if?” by offering community members a suicide prevention seminar on Thursday, Jan. 26.
‘Knows no limits’
Although it is not a topic people often talk about, suicide’s hold on a community can be far reaching.
Developed and presented by United States Army Reserve Chaplain Kenneth Koon, the “I Will Intervene Challenge” workshop focuses on building communitywide awareness of suicide and ways to prevent it.
Koon created the seminar in 2012 to combat the high rate of suicide among military personnel and veterans. He expanded the seminar in 2013 to cover civilians as well.
According to Koon’s website, OzarksHope.com, “a community filled with individuals skilled in suicide intervention strengthens the network of a caring community and builds a culture of health for all people.”
Melissa Daugherty, community mental health liaison with Burrell Behavioral Health, said “suicide knows no limits in age, economical status, race or sex, and can affect any one of us.”
Bolivar Police Department officer and CIT member Crystal Rorie said that while this is the first class of its kind the CIT has offered, it is essential for community health because suicide touches so many people.
“Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 34 in the state of Missouri,” Rorie said. “Missouri ranks 18th in suicide. That’s a rate 26 percent higher than the national average.”
“For over a decade, the suicide rate in Missouri has been higher than the rate nationally,” Daugherty said.
Preventing ‘unanswered questions’
Those left behind after suicide often live with guilt and regret.
“Suicide affects friends, acquaintances and family members for years after the event, in that there is often no closure for the survivors,” Daugherty said. “Those affected often wonder what could have been done to prevent this tragedy. They are left with confusion, unanswered questions and sometimes self-blame, as well as deep sadness and grief.”
Rorie said the purpose of the seminar is “to increase personal awareness, understand the ways, beliefs and attitudes which may help or hinder the ability to intervene, and to recognize the various community resources for further assistance as needed.”
Education about warning signs and ways to reach out can be the difference between life and death for those considering suicide.
“Suicide prevention training can help all of us become prepared when and if we have a friend or loved one who is considering this,” Daugherty said. “It teaches us how to respond appropriately with compassion and thoughtfulness. We can each make a difference in educating ourselves, as well as others, in preventing this unnecessary tragedy.”
Daugherty said everyone can benefit from suicide prevention training, because “we all need to know the warning signs of suicide.” She said people can find those contemplating suicide through work, school, family or friends.
“We need to be aware and open to the notion that we will be in a position at some point to help someone in need,” Daugherty said. “We each can make a difference if we make an effort.”
Daugherty added that this type of training is particularly beneficial for law enforcement officers because they are often the first ones on scene at suicide-related incidents.
The "I Will Intervene Challenge" seminar will be from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26, at the First Assembly of God Church, 1320 S. Springfield Ave., Bolivar.
Rorie said the workshop is open to “all community members who have an interest in learning the skills of suicide intervention.”
Registration is now taking place at OzarksHope.com. Seating is limited to 45 participants.
Thanks to grant funding, Koon said the training is free to law enforcement personnel and registration costs for all others is reduced by 75 percent when using the registration code “Hope” online.
The seminar offers five hours of POST credit for law enforcement and five CEUs for licensed professional counselors.
For more information, contact Stacey Velez, BPD program administrator, at 326-5298.
Sidebar: Suicide prevention tips from Community Mental Health Liaison Melissa Daugherty
• Take all warning signs and cries for help seriously.
• Sit with the person and take time to listen.
• Don’t hesitate to ask questions ― Do you have a specific plan? Do you have the means necessary to carry out the plan? Sometimes this brings a sense of relief to the person having these thoughts, and he/she finally feels someone is caring enough to inquire.
• Don’t leave the person alone if he/she has a plan to carry out suicide. Help get the person to the nearest emergency room or call 911 if the person cannot agree to a safety plan.
• Have phone numbers for 24-hour hotlines readily available.
• Follow up with the person in a day or two. Check on his/her well-being to express your care.
Sidebar: Suicide intervention resources
• Burrell Behavioral Health 24-hour crisis hotline: 761-5555
• National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
• COPLINE: 1-800-267-5463 or http://copline.org (COPLINE is a national hotline exclusively for law enforcement and their families that is staffed by retired officers and therapists with law enforcement experience.)
• The Dora Project Warm Line: 314-952-8274 (Supports families with depressed children ages 5-22)