Industry News: SafeTALK

Did you know that suicide has surpassed car accidents as a leading cause of death in our country according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention?  Or that suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-34 year olds in Minnesota, higher than the national rate for that age group?  Also, the Minnesota Department of Health reports that 16.5 % of ninth graders in 2010 reported having thoughts of killing themselves. While suicide is often thought of as an individual problem, it actually impacts families, communities and our entire state in both human and economic ways.

Attention is being focused on the rising rate of suicide, and our communities are recognizing that we can no longer afford to avoid or dismiss this serious public health concern as a weakness that can only happen in other families.  Suicide is everyone’s problem, not only because it can happen in any family, but because when it does, we are all affected.

The mental health community plays a vital role in preventing suicide.  Evidence shows that when mental health providers tell families of the importance of restricting access to lethal means once a suicide risk has been assessed, families usually respond appropriately by removing or locking up guns, medications and other means immediately.  The result of providing this information has been a decrease in suicides especially among impulsive young people.  Expecting that a family in crisis will think of these precautions can be a dangerous assumption.  National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Minnesota offers a one hour free workshop to professionals called Means Restriction Education.  This evidence-based practice teaches how to present life saving information in three brief steps and provides lock boxes for medications that can be given to families of youth.

All members of the community can make a difference by learning and being alert to the symptoms of depression and the warning signs of suicide.  They can help reduce the stigma associated with mental illnesses by opening a conversation and by encouraging friends, family members, co-workers and neighbors to seek help.  Everyone should know the crisis resources in their communities and how to assist someone in accessing the professional help they need.

In an effort to meet the needs in our communities, NAMI Minnesota is offering a three hour suicide prevention workshop that is listed on the Best Practice Registry of the Suicide Prevention Resource Center and The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention called safeTALK.  SafeTALK is a curricula created by LivingWorks and recognizes that people experiencing thoughts of suicide often send out subtle invitations to help them stay safe.  This workshop teaches how to use these opportunities to support that desire for safety.  Attendees learn to move beyond common tendencies to miss, dismiss or avoid suicide, to identify people who are at risk, and to apply the TALK steps (Tell, Ask, Listen and KeepSafe) to connect a person to suicide first aid resources.

For more information on safeTALK or Means Restriction Education, contact Donna Fox, Program Director at NAMI Minnesota, at [email protected] or 651-645-2948 X 101.

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