COMMUNITY – UNITY: SWISS CHEESE
I began thinking of a way for our community of Cody to combine all our resources to help prevent suicide after reading an article about The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah. This choir could not sing for 18 months because of Covid—until a 7-layer “Swiss Cheese” method was implemented. “Choir president, Michael Leavitt, likened the plan to resume choir activity to the image of stacking slices of Swiss cheese. Each slice has holes, but the more layers of protection applied, the higher the likelihood that the COVID-19 virus spread can be minimized.”
I initially came up with a list of seven resources that I knew
about in our community. When I did a Google search of
the word, “Suicide Prevention—Cody, Wyoming,” my list
eventually grew to twelve:
Family and Friends
Mental Health Professionals
Music and Art Therapy Groups
Parks and Recreation
Suicide Loss Support Groups
Suicide Prevention Groups
Workplace Suicide Prevention
I have a new website called, “Reason to Live – Suicide Prevention” (www.reasontolivesp.org) which is where I will continue to add new information from my research on these 12 topics.
For a long time, I wanted to get involved in our community to help prevent suicide and save lives. When my son, Ben, told me on February 4, 2022, that he would be able to release my song, “There’s a Reason to Live” on March 4, 2022, the thought came to me that I should plan a Suicide Prevention Seminar on March 5, 2022—the 12-year anniversary of when our son Jonathan died by suicide.
September is National Suicide month, but I want to have a seminar twice a year—March and September—as I don’t think once a year is enough. I feel a need to share ideas on the progress we are making as a community and discuss how we can reach all people—children, youth, and adults—who are at risk. Throughout the year, each of these 12 “Community Resources” could plan events to promote mental and emotional health—by teaching genuine kindness, helping everyone feel a place of belonging, and building feelings of high self-esteem.
These seminars would also be a place to provide comfort and support to those who have had family or friends who have died by suicide. No person should feel alone or isolated after this kind of tragic death.
I believe our community needs to fund an abundance of free activities where children, youth, and adults can laugh and have fun together and do positive things that will help dismiss the dark, depressive feelings that often lead to suicide. As it has been said many times, “Laughter is the best medicine.” Ben Franklin’s words, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” applies to all mental and emotional health strategies that can be utilized within a community to help prevent suicide. Let’s all do our best!
COMMUNITY: SUICIDE PREVENTION WEBSITES
Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC)
The community is an important setting for suicide prevention. A wide variety of community groups and organizations, including schools, after-school programs, health care providers, workplaces, and places of worship, can all work together to carry out prevention activities that reflect local needs and resources. Forming a broad-based suicide prevention coalition can be an important first step to understanding the suicide problem in your community and identifying the strategies that may be most appropriate and effective.
Effective suicide prevention is comprehensive: it requires a combination of efforts that work together to address different aspects of the problem.
By helping people build life skills, such as critical thinking, stress management, and coping, you can prepare them to safely address challenges such as economic stress, divorce, physical illness, and aging. Resilience—the ability to cope with adversity and adapt to change—is a protective factor against suicide risk. While it has some overlap with life skills, resilience also encompasses other attributes such as optimism, positive self-concept, and the ability to remain hopeful. Skills training, mobile apps, and self-help materials are examples of ways to increase life skills and build resilience.
Supportive relationships and community connectedness can help protect individuals against suicide despite the presence of risk factors in their lives. You can enhance connectedness through social programs for specific population groups (such as older adults or LGBT youth) and through other activities that reduce isolation, promote a sense of belonging, and foster emotionally supportive relationships.
(The Suicide Prevention Resource Center at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center is supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), under Grant No. 1H79SM083028-01. The views, opinions, and content expressed in this product do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or policies of CMHS, SAMHSA, or HHS.)
The Surgeon General’s Call to Action: National Strategy for Suicide Prevention
Today we know more about suicide and how it can be prevented than we did in 1999. We understand that like other public health problems, such as obesity and cancer, suicide is influenced by many factors. As a result, suicide prevention efforts must engage all sectors, including public health, mental health, health care, social services, our military and Veterans, business, entertainment, media, faith communities, and education. These efforts must be informed by data, guided by the needs of the groups affected, and shaped by the voices of people who have experienced suicidal thoughts, plans, attempts, and losses. …
Suicide prevention theory and research have long identified the social context as crucial to protecting individuals and populations from suicide.48, 49 Theories of suicide suggest that social factors, such as isolation and the feeling of being a burden to others, may increase suicide risk.50–52 Opportunities to contribute—through gainful employment that pays a living wage, or by volunteering or mentoring—may help reduce suicide risk by fostering supportive relationships and a sense of meaning and purpose. These theories suggest that at our core, human beings need to be connected to one another and need to believe that they are making a meaningful contribution to society. Schools, workplaces, places of worship, and many other organizations in the community help provide opportunities for individuals to develop these positive connections and be of service in meaningful ways.
As some experts have noted, suicide prevention must go beyond identifying and addressing risk factors to charting a course toward building a purposeful, engaged life.53 While we need to continue to increase understanding of why some people experience suicidal thoughts and behaviors, we also need to better understand the factors that help individuals overcome a crisis and recover, including key supports and reasons for living.
The six actions that follow are intended to continue the progress toward full implementation of the National Strategy. These actions include suicide prevention strategies that are appropriate for the general population, as well as for groups at risk and for individuals in crisis. The actions are intended to bring to scale approaches that have been found to be effective, and to expand our vision of suicide prevention to include both risk and protective factors—not only to reduce injury and death, but also to help all Americans lead purposeful and connected lives.
Action 1. Activate a Broad-Based Public Health Response to Suicide
Action 2. Address Upstream Factors that Impact Suicide
Action 3. Ensure Lethal Means Safety
Action 4. Support Adoption of Evidence-Based Care for Suicide Risk
Action 5. Enhance Crisis Care and Care Transitions
Action 6. Improve the Quality, Timeliness, and Use of Suicide-Related Data
(This is a 1-page excerpt from a 92-page document. KLF)
Reason To Live – Suicide Prevention
Park County Library
Saturday, March 5, 2022
SUMMARY & GOALS
We are grateful that we could have our seminar on Saturday, March 5, 2022! Our numbers were few—20 in attendance—but there was a sweet feeling of love and support.
We showed our YouTube video, "There's a Reason to Live - Lyric Video" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEn-7KlUh78) at the beginning of our presentation. At the end of the presentation, we had five lovely young women with beautiful voices who sang this song with Larry Munari directing them and his wife Alice playing the keyboard. In addition to the brochures and business cards from many mental health professionals in Cody, I also printed several of my own handouts, which can be found on my website (https://www.reasontolivesp.org/).
We plan to have a similar seminar in September 2022. We all agreed that with additional time and advertising more people would be able to attend. This was a good first step for us! In my past four weeks of intense research, I learned what a caring community we have here in Cody! As I talked to many people and organizations, I was greatly impressed with everyone’s desire to help prevent suicide. We must always try to reach the “one” who needs help the most, which is the most challenging part of all our efforts.
To accomplish this goal, the biggest need I see is to get everybody’s resources and information all in one central place where it can be accessed, and so everyone knows clearly what everyone else is doing. If our community is completely united, I know we can save lives and improve the mental and emotional health of those individuals around us who are suffering inside and who need our love and support.
One low-cost way to lift feelings of depression is through music and art therapy. In Cody, we already have one well-qualified music therapist, Patricia Wormington, and two well-qualified art therapists and counselors, Erin Brindle and Alex Rettinghouse.
Research studies show that one of the most damaging sources, which increase suicide, is the disturbing music that glorifies it. We need to push back in our schools and community with music that brings light, joy, and hope into people’s lives. Also, working with one’s hands through art is an amazing way to release dark feelings of anger, anxiety, and depression, which cannot yet be expressed in words.
I think our schools and community should have frequent workshops with music and art therapy that can reach all people—from the very young to the very old. Finding and engaging individuals who could benefit most from these inspired therapies will always be the biggest challenge.
Of course, these shouldn’t be called “Suicide Prevention” workshops, even though this is the great need we are addressing. Instead, they could be called something like “Healthy & Happy Living” workshops. I propose that these workshops be funded by community resources and concerned donors, so they are always free to the public. They should also be held at different locations throughout the city to make it convenient for people to attend wherever they live. Special attention should be given to individuals and families who have limited income and resources.
My “Community Resources Pyramid” shows how our community can work together to prevent suicide as we strive to save the “one.” The family and close friends of a loved one who dies by suicide are the people who will be most affected for the rest of their lives. These people will always have an empty chair at their table and feel the absence of their loved one at every holiday or special occasion. But suicide has a rippling effect, and it impacts almost all people within the community with shock, immense sorrow, and feelings of hopelessness.
However, I believe there is hope in the future. If everyone does a little bit, we can bring about great changes in individual lives within our community. On my Reason to Live – Suicide Prevention website are the words: “HOPE TO THE DEPRESSED, PEACE TO THE ANXIOUS, LOVE TO THE LONELY.” This is an encouraging statement of truth. I am confident that we can unitedly bring about great changes in our community and reduce the incidence of suicide through hope, peace, and love.