Brain Science and Updates From the Field

Stairways engages in suicide prevention efforts

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

In observance of National Suicide Prevention Month, Stairways Behavioral Health participated in two local events in September that helped raise awareness and promote discussion on the topic of suicide.

Stairways served as a sponsor for the Erie County Suicide Task Force’s third annual conference Sept. 20 and the Out of the Darkness Walk at Presque Isle State Park on Sept. 25.

The Suicide Task Force, a consortium of professionals, survivors and families affected by suicide in the community, held its conference at the Bayfront Convention Center, where an audience of more than 300 was in attendance. Stairways Blended Case Managers Jana Zybowski and Kelly Roberts, both of whom are members of the community task force, attended the conference and represented Stairways.

The conference was broken into morning and afternoon workshops and included presentations and displays by expert speakers. Both the morning and afternoon sessions consisted of two-part lectures entitled “Social Media and Suicide Risks” and “The Ethics of Self-Harm.” The morning workshop also included presentations that examined the risks among those in the LGBTQI community and discussed correlations between criminal think and suicidal behaviors. Following the lunch break, attendees then heard presentations on self-injury and suicidal behaviors.

Participants of the conference also had the opportunity to receive education credit hours.

The task force began in 2010 when the Erie County Department of Health conducted a needs assessment that revealed Erie and its surrounding counties needed to build a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention, policy, awareness and education. The team now consists of more than 30 members, including professionals in the mental health field.

Less than a week later, Stairways was represented at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s (AFSP) Out of the Darkness Walk.

The walk surpassed its $10,000 fundraising goal thanks more than 250 people completing the 5K course. Walk participants included mental health professionals, survivors, affected family members and other members of the community.

Those who attended the walk also had a chance to speak with area service providers on hand and gather information for those in need. Stairways and other organizations were on site inside the Rotary Pavilion.

Both the walk and conference addressed an issue that is reaching crisis-level proportions.

In Erie as well as statewide, the prevalence of suicide is staggering. According to AFSP, suicide is the 11th-leading cause of death in Pennsylvania. Among children ages 10-14, it is the leading cause of death and ranks as the second-leading cause for persons between the ages of 15 and 34.

In Pennsylvania, five people end their lives each day.

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