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Suicide support group making strides in area
Awareness walk, forum among accomplishments in first year

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Martinsville-Henry County Suicide Survivors Collaborative has accomplished a lot in about the last year, and it now is assessing where to go from here, officials said.

The collaborative was formed in 2012 because of high local suicide rates.

According to Jim Tobin, executive director of Piedmont Community Services; Warren Rodgers, director of operations of CONTACT Listen Line; Chad Martin, suicide support group facilitator; and a memo from Amy Hart, suicide prevention coordinator, the collaborative:

• Has brought together CONTACT Listen Line, Memorial Hospital in Martinsville, Piedmont Community Services, the local health department, the ministerial alliance and others. The mission of the collaborative is to reduce local suicide rates through education, prevention, intervention and support for those affected.

• Meets regularly to share ideas, formulate plans and support each other in sometimes difficult conversations. Similar groups have formed in Franklin and Patrick counties.

• Held a forum at Patrick Henry Community College in November, with a panel of speakers, music and an opportunity for families and others to learn and share.

• Held an awareness walk Oct. 20 at the Smith River Sports Complex.

• Provided training for “companions” to conduct support groups for people affected by suicide.

• Conducted two rounds of support groups, assisting a total of 15-20 people. (A support group will start in Patrick County on Aug. 6. It will meet the first and third Tuesdays from 6 to 7 p.m. at Blue Ridge Regional Library in Stuart. For information, call Patricia Crissman at 694-4361, ext. 118.)

• Conducted five two-day Advanced Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) sessions, providing training and support for about 100 people. The next one is scheduled to be held Sept. 5-6 in Patrick County.

• Brought Dr. Alan Wolfelt — author, educator and grief counselor — here to conduct an evening and day-long training May 21 and 22. About 100 people attended each day. (One of the sponsors was the Hairston family, which, with counselor Kimberly Herford, launched the Dover Hairston Project after Dover Hairston’s 2012 suicide, to address issues associated with suicide.)

• Held advanced clinical training July 16 and 17 for about 35 people, including psychiatrists, psychologists, other behavioral health workers, social workers and others.

• Held a retreat for people who attended support groups for people affected by suicide on Saturday.

“We have accomplished a lot in a year,” Tobin said.

Tobin and Martin said they believe the collaborative may be having an impact, if even a small one, through such things as increasing the public’s awareness of and providing education about suicide, and giving people affected by suicide “permission to grieve” on their own timetables.

Martin said he believes the collaborative’s work is helping dispel some myths about suicide, such as that suicide is “an automatic ticket to hell.” He countered that by mentioning Romans 8:38-39 and the death of Samson (Judges 16:23-31).

Tobin said CONTACT plays a critical role by having trained volunteers who provide 24/7 telephone help for callers. Volunteers receive certified crisis line and suicide intervention training, according to a CONTACT brochure.

Rodgers said CONTACT has implemented a risk assessment approved by the American Association of Suicidology. He also said CONTACT has a resource and referral database, which provides information about resources available in the community. CONTACT’s toll-free number is 1-877-WeHelp6 or 1-877-934-3576.

The collaborative has scheduled a meeting for 1 p.m. Aug. 8 at the Piedmont Community Services office on Clay Street to look at its future of the collaboration and plan the next steps for the coming months. The public is invited to the meeting. People who cannot attend but have ideas they would like to share may call the CONTACT business phone at 638-8980.

According to locality health profiles for 2011 (the most recent year listed) on the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) website, Henry County had 14 suicide deaths and a suicide rate of 23.4 per 100,000 population, compared with a suicide rate of 12.5 per 100,000 for Virginia. Henry County had 16 suicide deaths in 2010, according to the locality report for that year.

Henry County had 191 suicide deaths during the 15-year period from 1997 through 2011, or an average of 12.733 suicides per year during that period, based on data in another VDH report.

Martinsville had two suicide deaths in 2011 and a suicide rate of 15.4 per 100,000 population compared with Virginia’s rate of 12.5 per 100,000, according to a VDH locality report. Martinsville also had two suicide deaths in 2010, according to a VDH locality report for that year.

Martinsville had 41 suicide deaths from 1997 through 2011, or an average of 2.733 suicides per year, based on data in a VDH report.

Patrick County had four suicide deaths in 2011 and a suicide rate of 18.1 per 100,000 population, compared with Virginia’s suicide rate of 12.5 per 100,000, according to a VDH locality report. Patrick County had six suicide deaths in 2010, according to a VDH locality report for that year.

Patrick County had 69 suicide deaths from 1997 through 2011, or an average of 4.6 suicides per year, based on data in a VDH report.

 

 
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