An Honest Dialogue About Suicide in Shasta County

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Statistics show that 50 percent more people die by suicide each year in the United States than by homicide. In Shasta County, the suicide rate is twice as high as the state average.

When you add in the fact that the current recession has made life harder for many in our area, those working in the mental health fields believe now is a prime time to get the word out about suicide prevention.

A free suicide prevention training workshop is planned for Friday (Sept. 10) from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., at the Shasta County Library in Redding.

The training is being presented by the Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Shasta County.

The workshop is open to anyone. Parents, educators, caregivers, pastors, medical providers and law enforcement officers are among those who have typically benefited from the training.

“The goal is to teach people how to talk about suicide and feel comfortable about it,” said Diana Clayton of NAMI. “There are so many myths out there that you might say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing, and that it would contribute to a person taking their life. What we teach is a method, much like CPR.”

Experts believe that most people contemplating suicide don’t actually want to die. They just want to end the pain they are experiencing.

One of the key factors in suicide prevention is establishing a dialogue with a person who’s at risk. Friday’s workshop focuses on the QPR method – question, persuade, refer.

Clayton says the training teaches people how to have a conversation with someone who may be at risk and eventually ask them if suicide is something they’re considering. The “persuade” step involves listening and “breaking into that forever journey that a person might be on,” Clayton said.

“You don’t pass the buck,” she said. “You take the time to make the connection and rekindle some hope. Often a person may feel a sense of relief that someone else knows (what they’re feeling).”

The final step is referring the person to a program or counselor who can help provide the tools needed to bring the person back to a better state of mental health.

In addition to the workshop, the county health agency has been busy compiling a community assessment of suicide to better understand the picture of the issue in Shasta County. It’s part of a national and state strategy toward suicide prevention says Katie Cassidy, a community education specialist for Shasta County.

The assessment study is looking at demographics of past suicides in the county and is collecting information from interviews with mental health workers, faith community leaders, school counselors, medical caregivers and more.

“We want to know where and how we can best promote these messages (of suicide prevention),” said Cassidy. “Also it’s about providing support for people who have been affected by suicide — those who have made an attempt and survived, and people who have lost someone to suicide.”

According to statistics compiled over the past five years, Shasta County has averaged approximately 36 suicide deaths per year. This factors to an average rate of 18.5 per 100,000 people. The rate of suicide for the state of California is approximately 9 per 100,000 annually.

Separate from Friday’s workshop, the county sponsors a suicide prevention work group, which meets on the first Tuesday of every other month.

For Friday’s workshop, refreshments will be provided and registration is required. To register, or for more information, call Cassidy at 229-8426 or the NAMI Shasta County office at 605-1647.

Jim Dyar is a news, arts and entertainment journalist for A News Cafe and the former arts and entertainment editor for the Record Searchlight’s D.A.T.E. section. Jim is also a songwriter and leader of the Jim Dyar Band. He lives in Redding. E-mail him at jimd.anewscafe@gmail.com.

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment.

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is a journalist who focuses on arts, entertainment, music and the outdoors. He is a songwriter and leader of the Jim Dyar Band. He lives in Redding and can be reached at jimd.anewscafe@gmail.com
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