Suicide Prevention and Postvention

A Genuine Feeling of Caring Here

Posted in Community, Suicide Prevention and Postvention on October 23rd, 2018 with No Comments

Hundreds Join in Samaritans Second Annual Walk for Hope

“Peg Serley was a driving force in community outreach. She began her work some 40 years ago when NOBODY was talking about suicide. In fact, people shunned it. Peg was out front with all of this,” reflected Walk for Hope Co-Chair Bob Autieri as he addressed the crowds gathered at the Walk for Hope’s opening ceremony.  “In our lifetime, if we’re fortunate, we get to meet outstanding people that we just never forget. In my life I call them beacons of light. Peg Serley is, for me, one of those beacons of light.”  Among those on hand Saturday morning to receive Autieri’s tribute was Samaritans of the Merrimack Valley Founder Ms. Serley herself.  Her presence at the second annual Walk for Hope was among the event’s many highlights.

One of the intentions behind the Walk for Hope, created by Samaritans Director Debbie Helms, was to offer the community a space for healing and celebrating lives lost, but also to create a community of comfort and conversation in and around suicide.  As one walker pointed out along the walk’s course, “there’s just a genuine feeling of caring here.”  From extended families and bands of teams to puppies and pals, all were spirited up to show their support for suicide prevention and awareness.  “You know when you get a hug from someone who lost a loved one here, it’s a sincere hug – they know,” shared one participant who had recently lost her niece to suicide.  “They’ve been there.  That’s a person who has walked in your shoes.”

“I learned about the Samaritans when I myself needed help.  And, these people came at the right moment for me,” shared Ms. Serley as she walked back in time.  “The ability to share that over the years has been a blessing to me, and hopefully to many other people.”  Family Services of the Merrimack Valley is forever grateful for Peg Serley’s longtime service and unwavering commitment to shedding light on suicide.  The many blessings she has offered ripple far and wide.  We would also like to thank our Samaritans staff, the Walk for Hope Event Committee, our sponsors, friends in the media, the students at Shawsheen Valley Technical High School (a few of whom are pictured above) and the countless volunteers who helped to contribute to a wonderful morning of healing and community.  You are all beacons of light!

Family Services’ Samaritans provides a free and confidential crisis help line to those who are lonely, despairing, suicidal or need someone to listen. This service is provided by trained volunteers who provide unconditional and non-judgmental “TLC” – talking, listening and caring. This service is available (daily) from 8 AM to 11 PM by calling our Crisis Help Line at 866-912-HOPE (4673), or 978-327-6607.  

Additional Resources:

877-870-4673 – Samaritans Statewide Crisis Help Line

1-800-273-8255 – National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-508-532-2255 – Call2Talk

To contact a Samaritans staff member, please call 978-327-6671.

My Son Has a Name

Posted in Community, Suicide Prevention and Postvention on October 1st, 2018 with No Comments

Suicide… It’s a Complicated Grief.

Andrea Casey is a member of the amazing team we have here on staff here at Samaritans of the Merrimack Valley, a program of Family Services of the Merrimack Valley.  A beloved facilitator of the Samaritans ongoing Survivors of Suicide Loss Safe Place meetings, Andrea brings to that role a very unique perspective.  She has walked in the shoes of those who seek refuge in these community gatherings.  In 2008 she lost her beloved some Christopher to suicide.  She wants him to be remembered.  He had a name.  He had dreams, and he also had demons she believes.  In his honor, Andrea channels her grief into action by championing suicide awareness and by comforting other survivors in their heartbreak.  We are grateful for Andrea’s service and caught up with her as she and her colleagues prepare for the Samaritans Second Annual WALK FOR HOPE taking place on October 20.  Information on WALK FOR HOPE volunteer opportunities, participant registration and sponsorship opportunities are available here…


How did you become involved with Samaritans of the Merrimack Valley
?
I became involved with the Samaritans of Merrimack Valley when I lost my son Christopher Lee Manross ten years ago.   At the time, my Mom’s place of employment had a sign posted on the window for a Safe Place meeting for survivors of suicide loss.  

What would you like others to know about Chris?
Chris was my blond-haired, blue-eyed darling of a son.  He was gentle and kind-hearted.  He once stood up to bullying for a friend who shared the same religion.  Chris was very intelligent (sometimes  I think brilliant), and he received an academic scholarship to study Engineering at Clemson University – one of the most elite programs in the country.  I just want him to be remembered – that my son has a name, and he lived to be 18.  He wasn’t selfish.  He must have had demons that only he knew.

Tell us about the Survivor Support Group.  Why are they so essential?
The Survivor Group is essential because (in that setting) we all have lost someone to suicide.  It’s a complicated grief.  Who they (our loved ones) were and how they died is traumatic in its own worst way.  These gatherings are a place to vent your loss and connect with others who share your grief.

Last year you volunteered in our First Annual WALK FOR HOPE.  How was that experience?  Can you speak about the healing aspects of participating in this?
The First Annual Walk for Hope gave me hope.  We need to raise money for this much needed cause.  We have to denounce the stigma around suicide.  We have to take a stand against suicide’s depiction as a “selfish” act.  With both last year’s event and this year’s WALK FOR HOPE, our goal is to spread the word that suicide is truly a sickness, and that there is hope.  I believe that EDUCATION is the key factor.

How will the event differ this year, and what will people be missing if they do not participate in the Walk in some capacity?
With this year’s WALK FOR HOPE, we are on a mission to reach a broader audience.  The community nature of the Walk presents us with a chance to spread the word about the education we offer through the Samaritans of the Merrimack Valley.  We need these educational programs to reach the hurting… and the general public as they may know of someone suffering.  The Samaritans also offers both the knowledge and the resources for those that might be contemplating suicide.  I believe if people would just educate themselves and others, we will help save lives!

Thank you for all that you do Andrea….  Is there anything else you want to share on the topic of suicide  as we approach the second annual WALK FOR HOPE?
I would just like to say that if we had known that our son Chris was suicidal and we had accessed the resources and trained staff of the Samaritans, maybe, just maybe, my sweet young son would still be with us today.

Family Services’ Samaritans of Merrimack Valley strives to reduce the incidence of suicide in the Merrimack Valley and throughout Massachusetts by providing “befriending” to individuals who are lonely, depressed and contemplating suicide or self-injury. Suicide prevention is one of the primary goals of the Samaritans, although services also include postvention services, trainings and seminars, and support groups.  To learn more about our Second Annual WALK FOR HOPE, please visit…

If you or someone you know is in imminent risk of suicide, call 911 or an ambulance to take them to an emergency room.

Family Services’ Samaritans provides a free and confidential crisis help line to those who are lonely, despairing, suicidal or need someone to listen. This service is provided by trained volunteers who provide unconditional and non-judgmental “TLC” – talking, listening and caring. This service is available (daily) from 8 AM to 11 PM by calling our Crisis Help Line at 866-912-HOPE (4673), or 978-327-6607.

Additional Resources:

877-870-4673 – Samaritans Statewide Crisis Help Line

1-800-273-8255 – National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-508-532-2255 – Call2Talk

To contact a Samaritans staff member, please call 978-327-6671.

 

The FUNDAMENTAL FACTS About Suicide Prevention

Posted in Suicide Prevention and Postvention on September 10th, 2018 with No Comments

Samaritans of Merrimack Valley Partners with NAMI Cape Ann in Recognizing National Suicide Prevention Month

The National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) Cape Ann, is one of 1000 affiliates within the expansive organization.  NAMI Cape Ann, a grassroots, nonprofit organization working on behalf of either those who suffer or those who care for anyone challenged by daily, mental health issues, serves the Gloucester, Rockport, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Essex and Ipswich communities. NAMI Cape Ann provides, at no charge, advocacy from diagnosis to recovery, education, support groups, classes and programs to those…their families and friends dealing with or challenged by mental health issues, living on Cape Ann.  Next month (as part of an ongoing  Suicide Prevention Training partnership) Samaritans of the Merrimack Valley, a program of Family Services of the Merrimack Valley, will partner with NAMI Cape Ann for The Fundamental Facts About Preventing Suicide.

We are grateful for the important work being done by our friends at NAMI Cape Ann,” shares Samaritans of the Merrimack Valley Director Debbie Helms.  We are excited to collaborate for this upcoming program to get the word out to the communities we serve and increase awareness around suicide.

We recently sat down with Malva Crothers who serves as the Vice President of NAMI Cape Anns Board of Directors.  She has had a long history of service in the area of emotional wellness and is thrilled to be working in concert with Samaritans of the Merrimack Valley for this month’s special programming.

Tell us a little about NAMI, and the work that you do in the Cape Ann area?  How did you come to be involved with the organization?
NAMI Cape Ann provides, at no charge, advocacy from diagnosis to recovery, education, support groups, classes and programs to families and friends dealing with or challenged by mental health issues, living on Cape Ann.  I became involved with the organization as I was (personally) looking for a group which supports mental health challenges.  I now serve on their Board of Directors as Vice President and assist NAMI Cape Ann with their Marketing, Public Relations, Membership, Events and Promotions.

The Samaritans of Merrimack Valley is excited to partner with NAMI Cape Ann on September 24, for The Fundamental Facts About Preventing Suicide.  How did the collaboration come to fruition.  Who should attend this program, and why now?
The NAMI Cape Ann and the Samaritans of Merrimack Valley, Suicide Prevention Training partnership came to fruition as we sought out the insights and training expertise of Debbie Helms for our Cape Ann community as we together recognize September, National Suicide Prevention Month.  Joining us for this program will be community leaders, i.e. law and fire enforcement officials, member of the clergy, elected officials, educators, mental health service providers, representatives of Veterans Services, Housing Authority officials and private practitioners.  We expect 25-30 guests to be in attendance.

We live in complex times, with a continuous reel of not so positive news.  The average person’s level of stress is unsustainable.  Can you offer any suggestions for small (daily) practices for others, especially those battling with depression or suicidal thoughts, for combating life’s daily grind?
Random acts of kindness need to be demonstrated not only during Suicide Prevention Week, but on a daily basis.

The Fundamental Facts About Preventing Suicide is an invitation only event.  To learn more about the public programs and services of NAMI Cape Ann please visit their website.  Family Services’ Samaritans of Merrimack Valley strives to reduce the incidence of suicide in the Merrimack Valley and throughout Massachusetts by providing “befriending” to individuals who are lonely, depressed and contemplating suicide or self-injury. Suicide prevention is one of the primary goals of the Samaritans, although services also include postvention services, trainings and seminars, and support groups.  Family Services’ Samaritans is a member of the Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention, the Northeast Regional Coalition for Suicide Prevention, and the American Association of Suicidology.

Family Services’ Samaritans provides a free and confidential crisis help line to those who are lonely, despairing, suicidal or need someone to listen. This service is provided by trained volunteers who provide unconditional and non-judgmental “TLC” – talking, listening and caring. This service is available (daily) from 8 AM to 11 PM by calling our Crisis Help Line at 866-912-HOPE (4673), or 978-327-6607.  Please join us on October 20 for our second annual Walk for Hope.  Register here…

 

Additional Resources:

877-870-4673 – Samaritans Statewide Crisis Help Line

1-800-273-8255 – National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-508-532-2255 – Call2Talk

To contact a Samaritans staff member, please call 978-327-6671.

 

A Friend in YOU

Posted in Suicide Prevention and Postvention on September 5th, 2018 with No Comments

Make a Difference TODAY

A friend recently shared a story of a gesture she will never forget.  It took place a few years back while she was standing in line at a grocery store – on a tough day that found her feeling overwhelmed and especially blue.  Out of that blue, she looked up and noticed a woman, a stranger, holding a beautiful plant.  She turned to my friend, handed her the plant, saying, “I bought this for someone, and I think it was you.”  That simple act of compassion – of recognizing that we ALL have something with which we are dealing, proved to be a game changer for my friend.  In an instant, her spirits were elevated.  Someone noticed her, saw her pain and offered a simple human touch.

Can you imagine a world where everyone modeled the kindness of this stranger?  Where everyone looked up from their multi-tasking, and their self study to lift the spirits of another?  How about just for a day?  WE can, and we invite you to join us on Monday, September 10 as we recognize World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD).  Organized by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), the purpose of World Suicide Prevention Day is to raise awareness around the globe that suicide can be prevented.  In that spirit we’re launching the Make a Difference TODAY Challenge calling on everyone in our Family Services of the Merrimack Valley Community and beyond to commit to one small act of humanity that might benefit someone outside of your social circles – be it the mail carrier, the clerk at the grocery store, an elderly neighbor, or a co-worker in a department you rarely frequent.  You never know the ripple that action may have.

Suicide and non-fatal suicidal behavior are major public health problems across the world. Each year, more than 41,000 individuals die by suicide, leaving behind their friends and family members to navigate the tragedy of loss. In many cases, friends and families affected by a suicide loss (often called “suicide loss survivors”) are left in the dark. Too often the feelings of shame and stigma prevent them from talking openly.  But, our friends at IASP remind us that suicide is preventable. A simple gesture of kindness or extension of attention can often go a long way in easing the despair of someone experiencing suicidal thoughts.

“What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other,” queried the author George Eliot long ago.  It’s a timeless inquiry well worth worth revisiting throughout September (National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month).  On September 10, together let’s make a wave by looking up from our phones and smiling at someone passing by along the street, buying a coffee for a co-worker, writing a letter or card to a friend you’ve lost touch with or buying a plant for that stranger in the grocery store. Can we for one day make life less difficult for another?  Get creative.  Taking our challenge will likely lift your spirits as much as it will the benefactor.  We would love to share your experiences as you take our Make a Difference TODAY Challenge.  So, please visit our Facebook page on September 10th and throughout the month and let us know the story behind your gesture.  We want to know what, who, where, and most importantly…  how it was received.

Family Services’ Samaritans of Merrimack Valley strives to reduce the incidence of suicide in the Merrimack Valley and throughout Massachusetts by providing “befriending” to individuals who are lonely, depressed and contemplating suicide or self-injury. Suicide prevention is one of the primary goals of the Samaritans, although services also include postvention services, trainings and seminars, and support groups.  Family Services’ Samaritans provides a free and confidential crisis help line to those who are lonely, despairing, suicidal or need someone to listen. This service is provided by trained volunteers who provide unconditional and non-judgmental “TLC” – talking, listening and caring. This service is available (daily) from 8 AM to 11 PM by calling our Crisis Help Line at 866-912-HOPE (4673), or 978-327-6607.

If you or someone you know is in imminent risk of suicide, call 911 or an ambulance to take them to an emergency room.

Suicidal thoughts, although common, should not be considered normal and often indicate more serious issues.  The National Alliance of Mental Illness offers a wealth of information regarding treatment services to those affected by suicide, and to connect individuals with suicidal ideation.  Please visit their website at www.NAMI.org.  “Suicide does not discriminate,” notes Samaritans of the Merrimack Valley Director Debbie Helms.  “You never know what someone is going through.  One small gesture of kindness can change that person’s outlook on life.”  Let us join together and use National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month to shed light on this highly taboo and stigmatized topic, to reach out to those affected by suicide and to connect individuals with suicidal ideation to treatment services.  Now is THE moment to take the Samaritans of the Merrimack Valley Make a Difference TODAY Challenge.  And, please join us on October 20 for our second annual Walk for Hope.  Register here…

 

“We Learn From It.”

Posted in Community, Suicide Prevention and Postvention on June 21st, 2018 with No Comments

Local Business Owner Rallies Team in Honor of One of Their Own

Gregory Cunningham launched Ground Care Landscaping in 2004.  A lifelong resident of the Merrimack Valley, the business fused together his business skills along with his passion for the outdoors.  He has, through the years, built both Ground Care Landscaping and its work force around the premise of, “if it happens, we learn from it.  whatever ‘it’ is.”  That edict was put to the test over the past year as his staff grappled with the loss of one of their own to suicide.  During this time, Cunningham has been instrumental in guiding his team through this tremendous loss and in helping Ground Care to uncover the teachable moment.  Among his many gestures, Cunningham has built a golf tournament in salute of the life of their revered team member and friend, Ryan.  The community event, which takes place on Saturday, June 23 will also serve a dual purpose in that its proceeds will help to raise funds for the Samaritans of the Merrimack Valley (a program of Family Services of the Merrimack Valley) and also for local programs and services which support our veterans.  We recently caught up with Greg as his staff puts the finishing touches on the tournament… and keeps their fingers crossed for sunshine on Saturday

On behalf of Family Services of the Merrimack Valley and the Samaritans of the Merrimack Valley, thank you so much for coordinating this event to benefit our programs and services.  Why the Samaritans?  Had you any previous association with us?

Last year the Ground Care team lost one of our own to suicide.  It was a heavy hit for all of us.  We had never been involved with the cause of suicide until it hit home.  As the owner, mobilizing to raise funds in honor of Ryan was an opportunity for me to show the rest of our team how much each of them truly means to me.

If you are comfortable, do you care to share something about the individual in whose honor Ground Care has developed this event? 

Ryan was a great part of our team.  Nobody controlled our emotions like he did.  His presence had such an impact around here.  When we lost him, it left a huge void here within the company.  Ryan was an avid outdoorsman and hiker… and he loved people more than anyone on the planet.

How is it that Ground Care came to choose a golf tournament as opposed to some other form of a charitable event? 

We just wanted to to try something new.  This golf tournament is a chance for us to celebrate the success of our company and to give back in honor of Ryan.  Losing him humbled all of us.  Yet, with this tournament, here he is again bringing the team together.  We hope to make it an annual event.

Is there anything else you wish to share about suicide and your personal experience losing someone?

You never really understand how big an issue is to someone else.  On the day that Ryan died, he and I had worked alongside one another for that entire day.  I knew that he had some issues going on, and during that day I took the time out where I could to listen and be a friend.  Still, I had no idea how heavy these issues were weighing on him.  Everyone on our team felt responsible at the time of this tragedy.  I’m still left with the question of, “could i have done more?”  I just have to remind myself and the entire Ground Care staff that we were all a good friend to Ryan, and sometimes (unfortunately) there is only so much you can do.

 If folks would like to pitch in with the event, how might they still do so?

The 18 hole tournament begins at noon on Saturday.  We’re looking forward to a wonderful afternoon at the Bradford Country Club in Haverhill.  Beyond helping us to root for sunshine on Saturday, we still have some opportunities for businesses to sponsor holes.  In addition, we would welcome any in-kind donations for raffle items.  Please contact us at 978-688-9800 if you would like to pitch in some capacity.  For any questions or additional information, please feel free to also email us at: office@groundcarelandscaping.com.

Family Services’ Samaritans of Merrimack Valley strives to reduce the incidence of suicide in the Merrimack Valley and throughout Massachusetts by providing “befriending” to individuals who are lonely, depressed and contemplating suicide or self-injury. Suicide prevention is one of the primary goals of the Samaritans, although services also include postvention services, trainings and seminars, and support groups.  If you or someone you know is in imminent risk of suicide, call 911 or an ambulance to take them to an emergency room.  Family Services’ Samaritans provides a free and confidential crisis help line to those who are lonely, despairing, suicidal or need someone to listen. This service is provided by trained volunteers who provide unconditional and non-judgmental “TLC” – talking, listening and caring. This service is available 24/7 by calling our Crisis Help Line at 866-912-HOPE (4673).

 

No Stereotypes for Suicide

Posted in Suicide Prevention and Postvention on June 11th, 2018 with No Comments

From 1999 through 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers analyzed suicide rates for people aged 10 and older using data from the National Vital Statistics System for 50 states and the District of Columbia.  Their recently released findings have been in heavy news rotation this week as they revealed an alarming 25% increase in the rate of suicide over this time period.  All states except Nevada experienced an increase.  This data, derived from the National Violent Death Reporting System, also showed that 54% of those who committed suicide in 2015 did not have a known mental health condition. Digging deeper, the researchers found that several circumstances, including the loss of (or problems in) a relationship, were more likely to prompt a suicide among those who did not have a mental health condition.  “These findings are disturbing. Suicide is one of the top 10 causes of death in the U.S. right now, and it’s one of three causes that is actually increasing recently, so we do consider it a public health problem — and something that is all around us,” shared the CDC’s principal deputy director Dr. Anne Shuchat.

As we process the tragic deaths of two high profile public figures in the span of seven days, we are reminded that there are no stereotypes when it comes to suicide.  It strikes human beings from all walks of life, from of all levels of success and education.  “We have this image that suicide is something that only happens to a certain population.  One of the things we are reminded of in these recent deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain is that suicide plagues all people,” offered Samaritans of the Merrimack Valley Director, Deborah Helms.  “Suicide is an equal opportunity killer, and it never happens out of the blue.  You never know what the world feels like from the perspective of someone who is battling deep depression and contemplating suicide.”

Data derived from the National Violent Death Reporting System (and included in the CDC’s study), showed that 54% of those who committed suicide in 2015 did not have a known mental health condition.  Educating the public on those all-important warning signs is at the core of the Samaritans of the Merrimack Valley, a program of Family Services of the Merrimack Valley, ongoing volunteer training sessions.  On the heels of the CDC’s disquieting findings, we want to take this opportunity to share some of these teachings to educate the broader public on some of the signs of which to be mindful.  Flags that point to a friend or loved-one needing help include; changes in behavior or mood swings, a heightened sense of hopelessness, shifts in eating habits and conversation around death and dying.  Ms. Helms stresses also that in times such as this, where suicide is at the forefront of our news cycle, people should feel comfortable asking that friend or loved one, “are you thinking of taking your own life?” Her experience has been that the question may in some ways bring some relief to that person in pain.  “Despite some peoples’ hesitation, asking this question does not put the idea into the head of someone who may be in great pain.  It is more than okay to ask that question of someone if you notice some of the warning signs.  Not only is it okay, it is necessary.”

Dr. Shuchat echoed the message of Ms. Helms and the work of the Samaritans suggesting that there are “simple steps” anyone can take to help someone at risk. “Beginning a conversation, helping keep them safe, helping them connect and then follow up with them,” are among them. “We don’t think every single suicide can be prevented, but many are preventable.”  Thanks to our friends at the CDC for sharing these 5 things that EVERYONE can do to help in the fight against suicide:

Everyone can…

  • Ask someone you are worried about if they’re thinking about suicide.
  • Keep them safe. Reduce access to lethal means for those at risk.
  • Be there with them. Listen to what they need.
  • Help them connect with ongoing support like the Lifeline (1-800-273-8255).
  • Follow up to see how they’re doing.
  • Find out how this can save a life by visiting: www.bethe1to.com

Family Services’ Samaritans of Merrimack Valley strives to reduce the incidence of suicide in the Merrimack Valley and throughout Massachusetts by providing “befriending” to individuals who are lonely, depressed and contemplating suicide or self-injury. Suicide prevention is one of the primary goals of the Samaritans, although services also include postvention services, trainings and seminars, and support groups.  Please join us on October 20, 2018 for our Second Annual Walk for Hope.

 

Image courtesy of the Huffington Post.

 

Take Good Care…

Posted in In the News, Suicide Prevention and Postvention on June 6th, 2018 with No Comments

Suicide grief is a long journey.  You don’t have to deal with it quietly and alone.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and on average just under 45,000 Americans die by suicide.  As the tragic news of a public figure continues to flood our media channels today, we here at Family Services of the Merrimack Valley remain mindful of our suicide survivor families and friends. During such heightened coverage, that swell of content can stir feelings about their loved one’s death.  Please know that you are not alone.  “I was recently contacted by a survivor who told me that, even though she is years out from her loved one’s suicide, she is re-experiencing the emotions from when her loved one first passed away,” shared Samaritans of the Merrimack Valley Director Deborah Helms.  “This may be due to the way the media reports on and sensationalizes the death of public figures.  Imagine that surviving loved one should they encounter online or in print an article that fails to use safe messaging.  In 2014, Helms sat down with the Eagle Tribune to share with their readers some best practice recommendations for safe reporting and messaging.

In a statement made public yesterday, The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention issued the following, “There is never a single cause for suicide. Suicide is the result of many factors that come together such as an underlying mental health condition, life stressors, and access to lethal means. We must do more to prevent such tragic deaths through greater awareness of mental health, common risks and warning signs, and effective interventions and treatments.”  With survivors especially in mind, Ms. Helms this morning offers the following simple reminders as we grapple with yet another loss of life… “Suicide grief is a long journey and you don’t have to deal with it quietly and alone.”

  • Take care of yourself.
  • It’s not uncommon to have your own experiences and feelings  surface again when a celebrity dies by suicide and is being reported in the media.
  • You are not alone.  Reach out for help.
  • Call the Samaritans of Merrimack Valley to talk – 1-866-912-4673.
  • Visit with friends and family – find someone you can discuss your feelings with
  • Attend a Safe Place meeting
  • Tend to your own well being- eat, drink plenty of water, exercise, go for a walk, listen to music or do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself

Often, family and friends are the first to recognize the warning signs of suicide and can take the first step toward helping an at-risk individual find treatment with someone who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions. If someone is telling you that they are going to kill themselves, do not leave them alone. Do not promise anyone that you will keep their suicidal thoughts a secret. Make sure to tell a trusted friend or family member, or if you are a student, an adult with whom you feel comfortable.   If you or someone you know is in imminent risk of suicide, call 911 or an ambulance to take them to an emergency room.  Family Services’ Samaritans provides a free and confidential crisis help line to those who are lonely, despairing, suicidal or need someone to listen. This service is provided by trained volunteers who provide unconditional and non-judgmental “TLC” – talking, listening and caring. This service is available 24/7 by calling our Crisis Help Line at 866-912-HOPE (4673).

Who Is at Risk for Suicide?Suicide does not discriminate. People of all genders, ages, and ethnicities can be at risk.  Some of the risk factors for suicide include:

  • A prior suicide attempt
  • Depression and other mental health disorders
  • Feeling like a burden
  • Substance abuse disorder
  • Family history of a mental health or substance abuse disorder
  • Family history of suicide
  • Family violence, including physical or sexual abuse
  • Having guns or other firearms in the home
  • Being in prison or jail
  • Being exposed to others’ suicidal behavior, such as a family member, peer, or media figure
  • Medical illness
  • Hopelessness

Family Services’ Samaritans of Merrimack Valley strives to reduce the incidence of suicide in the Merrimack Valley and throughout Massachusetts by providing “befriending” to individuals who are lonely, depressed and contemplating suicide or self-injury. Suicide prevention is one of the primary goals of the Samaritans, although services also include postvention services, trainings and seminars, and support groups.

Image courtesy of the American Psychology Association.

 

Blow Bubbles, and Breathe…

Posted in In the News, Suicide Prevention and Postvention on May 8th, 2018 with 2 Comments

May is Mental Health Awareness Month… Shift Your Mood With These Simple Practices

When we talk about health, the scope of those conversations should not be limited to focus on heart health, or liver health, or brain health.  Our friends at Mental Health America (MHA) counsel that we should instead see the whole person, and “make use of the tools and resources that benefit minds and bodies together.”  Since 1949, MHA and their affiliates across the country, including Family Services of the Merrimack Valley, have been seizing the dialogue during the month of May by observing Mental Health Month during those thirty-one days of the calendar.  With a theme in 2018 of Fitness #4Mind4Body, the focus is on what we as individuals can do to be fit for our own futures – no matter where we happen to be on our own personal journeys to health and wellness.

Much of MHA’s work continues to be guided by the Before Stage 4 (B4Stage4) philosophy – that mental health conditions should be treated long before they reach the most critical points in the disease process. This approach encourages us to pause and consider the way that we think about diseases like cancer or heart disease.  We don’t wait years to treat them. We start before Stage 4— beginning with prevention, identifying symptoms, and developing a plan of action to reverse and hopefully stop the progression of the disease. Before Stage 4 (B4Stage4) questions why don’t we do the same for individuals who are dealing with potentially serious mental illness? It also champions the need to address these symptoms early, identify the underlying disease, and plan an appropriate course of action on a path towards overall health.

In observance of Mental Health Awareness Month and in concert with MHA’s Before Stage 4 (B4Stage4) philosophy, Family Services of the Merrimack Valley’s Clinical Director, Holly Hammershoy, shares the following accessible tips for taking the wheel of our own emotional wellness.

Mood Shifters… 

Are you having a rough day? Traffic, work issues, a to-do list that is overwhelming? Take a few moments to shift your mood – choose one of these six activities, and see how your energy and outlook changes:

You can even make this a game… Write the “shifters” down on slips of paper and draw them at random; this can also be fun to do with your kids.  Get everyone in on the fun and positive energy!

Be silly – make a funny face, wiggle your backside, blow raspberries; it’s hard to be serious when you’re being silly – or when someone is being silly with you.

Move – that exercise is crucial for physical and emotional health is well-documented;  moving shifts your mood quickly, even when it’s just short bursts of movement like marching in place for one minute or dancing around your office (and you might applause from your co-workers for your sweet moves!).

Blow bubbles – do you remember blowing bubbles as a kid? That feeling of anticipation as you blew a bigger and bigger bubble, then the fun of trying to catch the bubble before it popped. Watching bubbles float through the air can bring back those feelings and divert your attention from grown-up concerns for a few minutes.

Breathe – most of us breathe too shallowly, starving us of oxygen that can help our mood and attention. Sit (or stand) upright and breathe slowly and deeply (you should feel your stomach expand) for a count of three, then out again for a count of three. You may feel dizzy at first, but the more you breathe like this, the better you’ll feel.

Think about something (or someone) that makes you happy – kids, pets, a vacation memory (or a dream vacation), the memory of a fun night with loved ones – remembering the people and things that bring us joy can shift our energy quickly. Take a moment and think about the people and things that bring you joy.

Stretch – much like the benefits of proper breathing, gentle stretching can release tension and bring much-needed oxygen to tight, stressed muscles – both of which shifts your emotional mood.

Taking a few minutes to shift your attitude and mood can take your day in a positive direction. Have fun figuring out which shifters work best for you!

Thank you to Family Service’s Clinical Director Holly Hammershoy for the above contribution.  Family Services’ Counseling Center, licensed by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, helps individuals and families achieve emotional wellness through professional mental health treatment.  Individuals, couples, families, and children struggling with depression, anxiety, grief and other mental health disorders receive caring and competent treatment through mental health counseling, psychiatric consultation, and support groups.  In addition, Family Services provides clinical support to local schools and daycare center to address the mental health needs of children and adolescents.The counseling staff is composed of a psychiatrist, psychologists, and master’s level social workers and mental health professionals. The Family Services staff can help you and your family with issues such as:

  • Alcohol and other substances
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Relationship problems
  • Stress
  • Separation and divorce
  • Loss
  • Difficulties at work/school

Harvesting Hope

Posted in Community, Suicide Prevention and Postvention on April 10th, 2018 with No Comments

“In February of 2016, my best friend ended his own life.  That tragedy inspired me to take my grief and from it do something… something good,” shared local farmer and owner of Dogpatch Farm Susan Frank.  That “something good” has taken the shape of Finding Hope – an April 20th benefit evening brimming with a who’s who of New England Chefs.  “I thought that a casual night of wonderful food and community would provide a great space in which to both  raise money for suicide awareness and prevention while showcasing sustainable and ethically raised foods,” continued Ms. Frank.  And so, she is teaming up with Family Services’ Samaritans of the Merrimack Valley for what she projects could just be the area’s “culinary event of the springtime”.  All proceeds from the culinary event, which takes place at DiBurro’s in Haverhill, MA, will benefit Samaritan programs which promote suicide awareness.  The “Nose to Tail” type tasting evening will begin with a VIP hour at 6 PM featuring chef chosen special bites and early bird silent auction bidding.  Register here…

Some important facts provided by the Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE), and as compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization:

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US for all ages. (CDC)

Every day, approximately 105 Americans die by suicide. (CDC)

There is one death by suicide in the US every 12 minutes. (CDC)

Depression affects 20-25% of Americans ages 18+ in a given year. (CDC)

Suicide takes the lives of over 38,000 Americans every year. (CDC)

The highest suicide rates in the US are among Whites, American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Only half of all Americans experiencing an episode of major depression receive treatment. (NAMI)

80% -90% of people that seek treatment for depression are treated successfully using therapy and/or medication. (TAPS study)

An estimated quarter million people each year become suicide survivors (AAS).

There is one suicide for every estimated 25 suicide attempts. (CDC)

There is one suicide for every estimated 4 suicide attempts in the elderly. (CDC)

At Dogpatch, Susan Frank and her team are all about keeping it local, so it’s no surprise she went that route in building the Finding Hope line-up of chefs.  They hail from throughout New England and currently include:

  • Nick Duetmeyer/Post 390, Boston, MA
  • Jeremy Glover/Raleigh, Portsmouth,NH
  • David Vargas/Vida Cantina, Portsmouth, NH
  • Jethro Loichle/Massimo’s, Portsmouth, NH
  • Brian Young/Cultivar, Boston, MA (pictured above)
  • Rob Giallongo/Keon’s, Haverhill, MA

The Finding Hope organizers are aiming high with a goal of raising $10,ooo, and have carved out six levels of sponsorship – each offering area businesses a chance to show their commitment to suicide awareness and prevention.  Again, all event proceeds will go to the essential services the Samaritans provide in the community.  Please reach out to Susan Frank at Dogpatch Farm for additional event and sponsorship information.  She can be reached by e-mail at: dogpatchfarm@hotmail.com.  Tax deductible contributions may be mailed directly to: Family Services of the Merrimack Valley, 430 North Canal Street, Lawrence, MA 01840.  Come out on Friday April 21st, and enjoy a night of incredible food, music, dancing, cash bar, raffle and a silent auction to help us raise money to help prevent suicide.

Photo of Chef Brian Young, © 2017 Galdones Photograph

 

School of Thought – Local High School Continues to Rally for Family Services

Posted in Community, Donations, Suicide Prevention and Postvention on February 20th, 2018 with No Comments

“All in” would be one way to coin it – the longtime support advanced to Family Services by the Shawsheen Valley Technical High School community.  Whether its assembling a team of high school students to walk in the Samaritans of the Merrimack Valley Walk for Hope or pulling together an evening of dining, dancing and theater to benefit suicide prevention, the students and staff of the Billerica school continue to thoughtfully step up and give it their best in support of the vital programming Family Services offers in and around the Merrimack Valley.  Sustained friendships with community members such as this are essential to us in the programs and services we provide, and we could not be more grateful for their help!

Shawsheen Valley Technical High School’s mission is to provide students with a positive learning experience in a safe educational environment that encourages all students to reach their full potential while emphasizing the value of a strong work ethic.   Concern for the well being of others is a is a well proven ingredient in living a full life, and the school tutors students in this practice through their “orientation leaders” – a group of motivated juniors and seniors charged with the task of making a difference, both externally and internally, in the school community.

“It was in 2015 that our students began to mobilize in support of the Samaritans of the Merrimack Valley,” recalls Guidance Counselor Angela Caira.  Ms. Caira also coordinates the group of orientation leaders.  “Today, these kids are completely committed to the cause of suicide awareness and prevention,” adds Caira.  “Students get overwhelmed.  Self-care is so important these days.  Resiliency is such a lost art right now.  We want it to be our mission to help spread your message – to let people know there are services available to help them rebound.”

And so they rally, again and again… recruiting teams of participants for the Walk for Hope, designing t-shirts representing their school spirit, spreading cheer as they sing loud along the Walk’s route, and winning the ($500) prize for most funds raised by a school.  In general, just showing up big time in heart and soul.  “Three cheers for these kids,” raves Samaritans’ Director Debbie Helms.  With the Walk, the students extended their support even further surprising Ms. Helms by turning that $500 prize right back over to Family Services.  “For these kids, it was never about winning a prize.  This swing move of giving back the check – the gesture was simply about making another small shift,” reflected Caira.

“Shawsheen Valley Technical High School has made suicide prevention and mental health a priority.  From the Superintendent Tim Broadrick to Angela, to the entire staff, this school has instilled models of caring and compassion of  the highest caliber,” said Helms of the school’s ongoing support.  “They have planted in their youth a sense of community, a commitment to give back to others, a purpose, and a belief that even one person one school can make a huge difference in people’s lives.”

Next month, on Friday March 9th, the group will continue their “shifts”, this one in the form of an evening of pasta and assorted live entertainment with a portion of the event’s proceeds going to support the Samaritans work with suicide awareness.  The sold-out event, titled Rise Against Hunger and Suicide, begins at 6:30.  To learn more about Rise Against Hunger and Suicide, please visit the school’s website.  Ms. Helms and her Samaritans’ staff are honored by a chance to work with the group once again.  “Shawsheen embodies the best in a school and we are honored to collaborate with them.  They have not only contributed to our ability to educate more and more people about suicide prevention, their fundraising efforts and participation in our walk far exceeded our expectations.  They truly are a remarkable school.”