PODCAST: Local group aims to prevent suicide, create conversation around mental health

It’s time for talk. Combined with some local action.

That’s the clear message from the Seneca County Suicide Prevention Coalition, as well as other groups – leading the charge locally to help end suicide, and eliminate stigma around mental health disorders.

“It’s really crucial with the increased focus on education and awareness that we continue working in the community to see this problem to an end,” explained Margaret Morse, who serves as Director of Community Services for Seneca County. “We’ve come such a long way in the last several years; and even though we have a long way to go in terms of seeing an ‘end’ to the problem – it’s attainable.”

Morse has been instrumental in leading the effort to get the coalition into the community.

“It’s a community-based Coalition that wouldn’t be possible without all the great people who have come out, gotten involved, and helped us reach so many,” added Rhonda Jasper. She serves as executive director of the United Way; and serves as the liaison between the Coalition and United Way. The Suicide Prevention Coalition exists under the umbrella of the United Way, but is actively led by a group of community volunteers who simply want to see more.

“I can’t remember the last time we had people eager to be involved in a steering committee, but even that is a great example of how the community has responded to our efforts,” continued Jasper, who said that things have really caught on over the summer.

The Coalition hosted a series of community input forums to gain that insight needed to identify where their energy should be focused. Through that a series of educational workshops, and eventually – ‘Talk Saves Lives’ trainings were scheduled.

Throughout September, which is Suicide Prevention & Awareness month, the Coalition has hosted these trainings, sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Dozens had received the training, and dozens more expected to be trained by the end of the month. “The response and leadership from the sub-committee responsible for organizing these events has been incredible,” continued Morse. The training effort has been led by Natalee Carroll, who has been part of the coalition for nearly a year.

“I don’t want to say that I was surprised by turnout to our ‘Talk Saves Lives’ training sessions, but I was incredibly excited,” she explained last week. “These training sessions are short enough that they are effective, but in-depth enough that they provide the necessary information to prepare people the right way for things they may encounter.”

All three agreed that one of the biggest steps forward the state was taking in the world of mental health education was bringing curriculum to local schools.

“It doesn’t need to be an intimidating conversation,” added Morse. “And everyone needs to approach the conversation in their own way. But if they’re uncomfortable having a conversation about it – they should seek out someone who can have that conversation with anyone thinking about, or struggling with suicidal thoughts.”

Editor’s Note: If you or anyone you know is struggling with suicide, seek help immediately. Help is available at the Crisis Text Line by messaging 741-741, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-TALK.