AFSP-NC Associate Area Director Betsy Rhodes spent Friday sharing a brief yet impactful overview with staff members. During this time, staff members went through Talk Saves Lives™ training where participants learned what suicide is, who is at risk, and what can be done to prevent it. Rhodes dispelled misconceptions, provided history to the verbiage used, shared proper ways to report suicides, and helped shed light on how those at risk are identified. She also shared More Than Sad, a video that showcased how depression in teens can be exhibited and what methods of treatment could be used to assist each child. This video helped to challenge the stigma surrounding depression while also demystifying the treatment process. The end of the presentation was dedicated to Rhodes sharing her personal connections to suicide where she spoke openly about learning risk factors and the power of prevention such as therapy for those individuals and families impacted by suicide.
Rhodes noted, “I have been amazed by the welcome from Mount Airy City Schools to tackle this problem head-on,” Rhodes said. “Never have we had a school system give us full access to so many in such a compact span of time. My hope is that this public education outreach model will be adopted by other school systems across the state.
“We know at the core of suicide prevention is public education. It is a battle between ignorance and education. Suicide is just like other health issues - breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes - where you must know who is at risk before you can clearly see the warning signs of a crisis. Knowing both and knowing how to intervene and help the person in crisis can prevent a death by suicide. “Right now, the majority of the public is ignorant about the risk factors, the warning signs and the successful ways to intervene in a suicidal crisis.
"We will not see the numbers of deaths by suicide go down until the public is more educated."
Saturday community members were invited to attend this training that was held at the new Community Central Office at 351 Riverside Drive. Sunday’s event at Central United Methodist Church was dedicated to helping clergy and congregations learn how to support those affected by suicide.
Students were the focus of Monday’s sessions. Rhodes visited Mount Airy Middle School and Mount Airy High School where students gathered together with administrators and staff to hear the Talk Saves Lives™ program. Students were attentive as the facts of suicide, factors that cause one to be at risk, and preventive measures were discussed. Following each session, Rhodes spoke with individual students who approached her and with guidance from administrators, provided resources for help and more information.
Following the session, one MAHS educator stated, “Our students, families, and community are so fortunate to have a school system that values social and emotional learning equally, if not more than academic learning. The AFSP and its representatives provided our high school family with raw, but necessary statistics and risk factors for suicide. Our guest segued beautifully into strategies that were feasible and memorable for our kids. She was spot on when saying that THIS is the generation that will help educate the world about mental illness and the risks of suicide. I'm just lucky enough to work in a school system that helps support this generation in their endeavors.”
Telling your story can save lives, but only if you share it safely. Sharing your story lets people know they are not alone and shows them recovery is possible. If done safely, your story will encourage people at risk to seek help.
- Be at a safe place in your recovery. Reflect on your own frame of mind. As a general guideline, wait at least one year after the attempt or loss before speaking.
- Define key messages. Your story should not simply express pain. Your goal should be to educate and inspire hope.
- Practice. Sharing your story may bring up unexpected emotions. Be sure to practice aloud so that you’re prepared to speak calmly and slowly in front of others.
- Emphasize the journey. Talk about both before and after the loss or attempt, and how far you’ve come in your recovery.
- Know your audience. Consider who you will be talking to (e.g., students, clinicians, survivors) and tailor your remarks accordingly.
- Be honest and comprehensive. Do not focus solely on the loss or attempt. Include the full range of your experience, both the positive and the negative, and how you manage your mental health today.
- Provide mental health resources for your audience to take home, like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), the Crisis Text Line (text TALK to 741741), or afsp.org.
- Don’t use phrases like “commit suicide” or “successful attempt.” These phrases perpetuate suicide’s stigma and moral judgment. Preferred terms are “ended one’s life” or “died by suicide.”
- Avoid details about suicide methods. Don’t refer to lethal means unless your story would be incomplete to the listener without it. If mentioned, avoid including details, since graphic descriptions can be triggering to those who struggle, and cause contagion.
- Don’t simplify suicide. Reducing the attempt or loss to a single cause fails to educate the public about the many warning signs and risk factors that can signal an attempt.
- Don’t glorify suicide. Portraying suicide as honorable or romantic can lead others to view suicide as a viable option.
- Avoid portraying suicide as an option. Suicide is not a rational backup plan or coping behavior.