Public, professionals to come together at suicide prevention conference

MARQUETTE — September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, which has organizations and individuals across the country coming together to talk about suicide prevention.

In Marquette, professionals and the public will have an opportunity to come together over the issue locally at the third annual Upper Peninsula Suicide Prevention Conference on Friday at the Holiday Inn.

The conference, which is put on by the Marquette County Health Department, Dial Help and the U.P. Coalition Network, will feature speakers from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with registration and light refreshments offered from 8:30 to 9 a.m, said Sarah Derwin of the Marquette County Health Department.

The conference, Derwin said, can help people find out what is being done about suicide prevention in the U.P. and how they can join the effort in their area.

“It tends to give people a lot of good ideas about what maybe they could take back to their own communities,” she said.

It’s also a way for professionals and the public to come together and talk about the programming that is available across the U.P., Derwin said.

“Geographically, the U.P. is so spread out, sometimes it can be hard to know what’s going on in other regions,” she said, noting that the conference allows people to “learn what other communities are doing, learn what’s going good, what’s not going so good.”

The keynote speaker at the conference will be Dr. David Litts, a retired Air Force colonel who “has embarked on a second career mission: to promote suicide prevention, a cause he championed during the last 10 years of his military career,” according to informational materials about the conference.

Derwin said they are “really excited” to have Litts speaking at the event, as he is nationally known in the field of suicide prevention.

“One of his really big initiatives he works on nationally is an initiative that tries to encourage faith-based groups to begin to have a conversation about suicide, mental health awareness,” she said.

Barb Smith, who is the founder and facilitator of Saginaw Survivors of Suicide, as well as a private grief consultant for those who have lost a loved one to suicide, will also speak at the event.

Smith will speak about “how the community responds, reacts, and some tools of what to do in our little community here” after a suicide, Derwin said.

Professionals who work in both suicide prevention and substance abuse prevention will also speak at the conference, she said, along with the Marquette County Suicide Prevention Alliance’s two action teams, based in Gwinn and Ishpeming.

As the Marquette County Health Department will be entering the final year of suicide prevention grant funding from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services this year, a discussion about sustainable programming will also be on the table, she said.

“We’re just going to be starting our fourth and final year of our grant, so we’re kind of looking at how we’ve had these pieces in place for sustainability,” Derwin said.

Overall, Derwin said, the conference will be a valuable experience for many to come together and share resources, knowledge and support.

She also wants the community to know that Question, Persuade, Refer — a suicide prevention gatekeeper training program that teaches people to recognize the warning signs — remains available through the Marquette County Suicide Prevention Alliance. The hour-long presentation is freely available to groups, Derwin said, noting that they can travel to offer the program at a desired location. For more information or to set up a training, call Derwin at 906-315-2621.

For more information on the conference, call 906-482-9011. For those who would like to register, visit https://goo.gl/forms /xnzy5tXUeh2D4Vyi1.

The National Suicide Prevention Resource Center recommends calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or a mental health professional immediately if you or someone you know is contemplating suicide. Dial Help, which answers for the lifeline in the U.P., can be reached by phone at 906-482-4357 or 800-562-7622, and by text at 906-356-3337.

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248.