Oakland County Suicide Prevention Task Force creates safe space to spread awareness

In its first in-person event since the onset of COVID, the Oakland County Suicide Prevention Task Force held a suicide prevention community discussion on Wednesday, Sept. 28. Around 100 people attended virtually or in person at Oakland Community Health Network in Troy.

The Task Force’s primary goal was to get the community together again to stress the importance of everyone’s role in helping to prevent suicide. The theme was Your Role in Suicide Prevention: A Call to Action — in other words how each community member can assist with suicide prevention.

The event was a safe space to share stories and spread awareness of how people can help those around them who are experiencing thoughts of suicide. Featured were experts, individuals who struggle with their mental health, and individuals with family members who struggle with their mental health. 

Highlights of the Day

Oakland County Executive David Coulter welcomed attendees. The keynote speaker was Riley Juntti, national coordinator for 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. She is a public speaker on suicide prevention at an international level and the face of Tell Them, a Netflix campaign encouraging individuals to speak out about their personal struggles with mental illness and thoughts of suicide.

Juntti survived her first suicide attempt at just 13 years old. Later in life, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She was good at hiding her pain and originally kept her thoughts of suicide to herself. In time, she discovered the power of talking about her trauma.

Talking to someone about suicide can ignite the healing process. Therapists, support groups, and the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline are all listening ears ready to assist in your journey of improving your mental health.

Following Juntti’s speech, Mayim Meyers from Jewish Family Service of Metro Detroit provided a mindfulness activity for the group. There was also a testimonial from Tasha Henson who used the skills she learned as a safeTALK workshop participant to help a client and their family. SafeTALK is an online training course that teaches participants to recognize the signs that a person is thinking about suicide and to take the appropriate steps in connecting that person with support from trained community resources.

The event’s panel discussion featured Samuel Milner, a Case Manager at Easterseals of Michigan; Kristen Smith, the PRiSMM (Preventing Suicide in Michigan Men) Program Coordinator; Regina Murray, an Army veteran; and Sarah Charow, an individual with a child who survived attempted suicide. The day ended with an option to participate in Suicide Prevention 101 training presented by the Oakland County Health Division.

Upcoming Suicide Prevention Discussion 

The Oakland County Suicide Prevention Task Force will be holding a suicide prevention training opportunity on Saturday, Oct.15 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Calvary Lutheran Church in Clarkston. The event will cover safeTALK training and prepare participants ages 15 and older to become trained helpers when they notice someone struggling with thoughts of suicide.

Oakland County community members are invited including parents, grandparents, high school and college students, teachers, police officers, fire fighters, medical providers, and more. Those interested in attending can email Kat Polmear at polmeark@oakgov.com.

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