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Collaborative to restart support group
Suicide Survivors offers ASIST training

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Martinsville-Henry County Suicide Survivors Collaborative recently decided to continue the work it has been doing for more than a year, but in more focused ways.

That’s according to Amy Hart, suicide prevention coordinator for Mental Health America of Central Virginia, a nonprofit. She works in a consulting role with the coalition, she said.

The collaborative was formed in 2012 because of high local suicide rates. Its mission is to reduce local suicides through education, prevention, intervention and support for those affected.

Hart said the collaborative plans to restart a suicide survivors support group, which previously had been effective.

It also plans to continue offering Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) sessions.

Jim Tobin, executive director of Piedmont Community Services, has described ASIST as two days of intensive training using best practices to intervene to prevent suicides. ASIST training is beneficial for school counselors, law enforcement, ministers, social workers/counselors, CONTACT volunteers and others who may encounter people at risk of suicide, he said.

The next ASIST training is set for Sept. 5-6 at the Reynolds Homestead in Patrick County from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days, Hart said. Attendance both days is required. There’s no charge. People interested in signing up may call the CONTACT business phone at 638-8980.

The collaborative is looking at how to bring more awareness to issues related to suicide and what the community can and needs to do, Hart said.

“We want to get more members in the collaborative,” and not just from the mental health community, she said. The collaborative would like representatives from law enforcement and nonprofits that offer services such as providing food, helping with bills or other services, she said.

The collaborative already has brought together CONTACT Listen Line, Memorial Hospital in Martinsville, Piedmont Community Services, the local health department, the ministerial alliance and others, including people affected by suicide, officials have said.

“The collaborative ... has a heart for the community,” Hart said. “It hit the ground running to help the community fight the issue of suicide — everything from prevention to intervention to ‘post-vention,’ or helping survivors know how to heal after the death of someone who died by suicide and helping those who attempted suicide.”

Hart said she believes the collaborative is making an impact with more awareness, training and help than the community has ever had.

In its more than first year of operation, the collaborative — in addition to providing suicide survivor support groups and ASIST training — held an awareness walk; brought Dr. Alan Wolfelt — author, educator and grief counselor — here to conduct an evening and day-long training; and held a forum with a panel of speakers, music and an opportunities for families and others to learn and share, officials have said.

The collaborative also provided training for “companions” to conduct support groups for people affected by suicide; held a retreat for people who attended support groups for those affected by suicide; and held advanced clinical training, officials have said,

The collaborative meets regularly to share ideas, formulate plans and support each other in sometimes difficult conversations. Similar groups have formed in Franklin and Patrick counties, officials have said.

The next collaborative meeting will be at 4 p.m. Sept. 16 in the second-floor board room of Piedmont Community Services, 24 Clay St., Martinsville.

Hart said figures from the Virginia coroner’s office show that in 2010:

• Patrick County had the ninth highest suicide rate in the commonwealth (a rate of 32.4 suicides per 100,000 population). Patrick County had six suicides that year.

• Henry County had the 11th highest suicide rate in the commonwealth (a rate of 31.4 suicides per 100,000). Henry County had 17 suicides that year.

• Martinsville had the 108th highest suicide rate in the commonwealth (a rate of 7.2 suicides per 100,000 population). Martinsville had one suicide that year.

Hart can be reached at (434) 847-9055.


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