San Rafael, CA — “I need help.” In many cases, those struggling with life might not say it out loud. They might not even think it to themselves. So, it might be up to others to recognize when somebody they know or love is reaching a crisis point. That’s the time to throw a lifeline.
All September long, community events in Marin County will focus on raising awareness and decreasing stigmatization around suicide. The countywide free events are for everyone or a specific population such as high school students, older adults, parents and caregivers, and LGBTQ individuals and allies.
In September 2022, a series of Conversation Circles will be held for parents/caregivers who care for older adults, LGBTQ+ allies and family, men, and first responders.
The event schedule is tied to Suicide Prevention and Recovery Month. It’s offered by the Marin County Suicide Prevention Collaborative (SPC), Marin County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services Division, and community-based organizations. National Suicide Prevention Week is September 4-8, World Suicide Prevention Day is September 10.
“These local events are focused on building our collective capacity so that each of us can talk openly about suicide, refer someone to help, and support those who have experienced a suicide loss or an attempt,” said Kara Connors, SPC Senior Program Coordinator.
A newly released booklet, From Compassion to Action: A Guide for Suicide Prevention and Support in Marin, “is a tool we can use to build our skills in helping others when they need it most,” Connors said.
Why is this urgent? Between 2016 and 2020, there were 206 deaths by suicide among Marin residents. In 2021, local data indicated a decrease in suicide from the previous five years as provisional data showed 29 Marin residents died by suicide compared with 35 in 2020 and 46 in 2019.
“We’re striving for zero, so we must keep making progress,” Connors said.
The skill-building starts on Wednesday, September 7, when the SPC monthly virtual meeting at 2 p.m. features Maggie Pilloton, the Training Institute Manager at The Spahr Center. She will discuss how to be an active ally and advocate for Marin’s LGBTQ+ population, a group that is disproportionately impacted by suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
SPC will present its second year’s accomplishments and the goals for its next year to the Marin County Board of Supervisors during its meeting of Tuesday, September 13. The morning session will be both in-person and online; the exact time depends on the rest of the Board’s agenda that day.
A series of Conversation Circles will be held for parents/caregivers who care for older adults, LGBTQ+ allies and family, men, and first responders. Registration is open now but limited to 20 participants per session.
“Suicide Prevention and Recovery Awareness Month is a time dedicated for all of us to come together with compassion and strength to address this difficult topic,” said Dr. Todd Schirmer, Interim Director of Behavioral Health and Recovery Services. “We can all benefit from honest conversations about mental health, suicide, and substance use because one conversation can change or save a life.”
During the third week of September, a collaboration of the SPC Youth Action Team, Marin HHS and MCOE will offer Wellness Carnivals at all Marin high schools to increase awareness and conversations around mental health and wellness among students. The carnival is planned to include four games that will inform students about the signs of suicide, stigma, support for mental health, and all-around wellness.
"We came up with our idea of the traveling Wellness Collaborative so we could reach more kids and make a greater lasting impact,” said intern Tawny Strotz, a senior at Redwood High School. "Through this event, we will go to students instead of making them come to us.”
The events also include a film in Spanish of interviews with two Marin women about their suicidal recovery that will be screen in Novato on September 15.
There will also be a hike one for loss survivors and another for military veterans who are highly impacted by suicidal thoughts. The Hike for Hope is organized the Felton Institute’s Marin Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors (LOSS) team.
September 30 is the Multi-County Suicide Prevention Summit, which is full day of learning presented by Marin HHS and behavioral health and suicide prevention organizations in Fresno, San Luis Obispo, Kern, Tulare and King counties. The first speaker that day is Sally Spencer Thomas, a suicide loss survivor and a clinical psychologist; the afternoon schedule includes Kevin Berthia, a suicide attempt survivor and now a suicide prevention advocate.
More resources can be found on Marin HHS’ Prevention website.