Zero suicide committee meets

The San Juan Zero Suicide Committee met last week to discuss a number of issues related to implementing programs for communities, schools and countywide use that are locally driven and provide youth training and leadership.

The committee was established over a year ago to improve the care provided to community members struggling with suicide, and create leadership to reduce suicide among people in care. Among its goals was training various community members in Applied Suicide Skills Training (ASIST) and SafeTALK.  The ASIST Training has been given to all school counselors and social workers in San Juan County. Surveys were also distributed in the various county agencies to help understand areas of need in regards to suicide and create common risk assessments for the various county agencies.

Those attending last week’s meeting were: Rick Hendy UNHS, Pfawnn Eskee UNHS, Peter Haney SJH, Yikanee Sampson UNHS, Shawn Ivins Juvenile Justice System, Susan Hendy UNHS, Tami Squires San Juan Counseling Center, Niki Olsen UNHS, Trevor Olsen San Juan School District, Joel Redd Utah Foster Care, Autumn Secody UNHS, Kim Meyers DHS and Kolenya Holly, UNHS.

For last week’s meeting, the committee invited the Utah State Department of Human Services Suicide Prevention Coordinator, Kim Myers, to present various programs and models that other communities are implementing. She has noted that our county has had the best response in the State of Utah with ASIST and SafeTALK trainings.

During the meeting she discussed three components to be considered when looking to implement a program.

  1. A Crisis response for the community
  2. Staff training for intervention.
  3. Student training, such as knowing warning signs, responses, and skill building.

According to Meyers, one big component that the schools need to have is strong consistent leadership. There are various programs used in other communities, each with pros and cons, that have been used. One such program is Hope Squads. These have been widely used and require each school to survey the student body for students who would stand out as someone to be relied upon as a leader. Individuals in these Hope Squads become trained in curriculum along with a Hope Squad advisor. This is good training for the group, but does not engage the whole school in suicide training. Hope Squads are a “Tier 3 program,” and there are 4 tiers. It also involves a community effort such as police response, and involving schools, hospitals, social workers, and QPR (Question, Persuade and Refer) training. The program trains the leaders how to be the “eyes and ears” of the school, but not to intervene in a situation.

SOS – is a teacher training and community effort to screen all kids and provide youth training in the schools. DBT (Dielectrical Behavior Therapy) skills – Teaches skill building in the schools. This is a good option because the most common risk factor for suicide in schools is break ups with relationships. The skills taught can be used to help with healthy relationships. Life Lines – Student and teacher training. Becoming a Mindful School. Trauma Informed Schools. Good Behavior Game – Skills taught to 1st and 2nd graders designed to lower suicide risk and dropout rates. Guiding good Choices Strengthening families program and Sources for Strength program.

The committee is looking for programming to implement into the schools that is culturally sensitive about beliefs on suicide. The schools are required to have ongoing curriculum in the schools about suicide prevention. They are looking for a program that can be used countywide but is driven locally with those shared components, and also gives youth training and leadership.

Concerns about these programs include: Too much focus on Suicide can draw too much attention to suicide. Also talking about suicide in some communities can be Taboo because people do not know how to talk about it. Getting parents involved in the process is difficult and parent nights at schools are not well attended.

Solutions: 1. Pfawnn and Rick met with a social worker who works in schools on the reservation and talks about suicide. He said that he is able to talk about suicide by talking about the value system, and focusing on healthy relationships and skill building.

  1. Have a medicine man say a prayer and set protections prior to the conversations about suicide.
  2. Have Peacemakers trained in ASIST.
  3. Some communities respond well to having events that introduce a program. It’s also a great way to bring the community together.
  4. Using T-shirts to promote awareness.
  5. Having Facebook pages with announcements.
  6. Having a Hope Week.

There are several programs already in place, including 1. Peacemakers. This is part of the Judicial Branch and they are already being trained in the schools and are getting many referrals. There will be an upcoming training of 25 more Peacemakers on May 1-5 to work in the schools on a daily basis. This service is free to the students and already has over 100 referrals.

  1. School Social Workers. Send referrals to Peacemakers and have access to their services that day.
  2. The State Suicide Coalition Talks about specific programs and is planning to enhance protective factors with these programs. Not all prevention needs to be programs such as ASIST.
  3. Unity clubs are in place in the schools now and are being used for prevention work.
  4. Safe UT presentations
  5. Family Spirit Program at UNHS. UNHS Public Health Director Shawn Begay is overseeing a program that will have UNHS Public Health Nurses visit the homes of women when they begin their 3rd trimester of pregnancy and continue to visit through the child’s third year of life. The visits will help the mom and baby be successful. The lessons will teach topics such as the changing body, post-partum depression, diapering, bottling, life skills, and budgeting.
  6. Juvenile Justice Services report that a bill was recently passed to reform the focus of JJS. It will focus on more early intervention in home services, crisis intervention programs, and home detention. JJS staff is also trained in the program Strengthening Families.

The next meeting of the San Juan Zero Suicide Committee will be May 10 @ 1:00 pm at the Old Seminary Building behind the District office.

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