Suicide prevention conference brings professionals, community together

A representative of the American Indian Health and Family Services speaks gives presentation entitled “Cultural Issues in Suicide Prevention” during the second annual Upper Peninsula Suicide Prevention Conference at the Ramada Inn in Marquette Friday. (Journal photo by Lisa Bowers)

MARQUETTE — Talk saves lives. That was one of the messages heard by dozens health professionals and concerned residents who participated in the second annual Upper Peninsula Suicide Prevention Conference on Friday at the Ramada Inn in Marquette.

Participants heard several presentations including the Psychology of Suicide, Suicide Prevention Workgroups, Reducing Veteran Suicide, Cultural Issues in Suicide Prevention, Stopping Stigma, Postvention for Surviving Families and Ethical Decision Making within Suicide Prevention.

Conference organizer Megan Giacoletto said suicide prevention is especially important in rural communities where residents can feel cut off from the rest of the world.

“When we get together in groups like this, that are all open and talking about suicide, that really helps address that stigma at a community level,” Giacoletto said. “We are able to make it ok to talk about suicide, and make it OK for people to reach out for the help they need.”

Giacoletto said one of the goals of this year’s conference was to find practical ways to implement prevention information — and help to dispel the stigma associated with suicide.

“Suicide is an issue that lives in some dark corner, where people aren’t willing to bring it out into the light,” Giacoletto said. “So that’s why we approached the American Indian Health and Family Services and the Escanaba Vet Center because those are really “boots on the ground” dealing with it – looking at what we are doing with suicide prevention with these special populations.”

Conference presenter and author Denise Haas said a variety of factors play into suicidal thoughts — a major one being depression.

Haas said in doing research for her book ‘just hold on — finding hope in the face of suicide’ she found a variety daily factors can contribute to depression.

“Food can have a lot to do with your state of mind, your heart, and how you feel in general,” Haas said. “If you are not getting enough sleep, you’re toast. If you are not getting enough water, you are dehydrated. Depression can be a symptom of dehydration.”

Haas said as someone who has struggled in the past with suicidal thoughts, it was important to be part of the conversation.

“I am just really grateful to be in this mix right now. I come from a different perspective,” Haas said. “People do want to talk, but we have to be willing to sit down and talk to them. With social media we are not talking anymore. We’ve got to sit down and pay attention to what is going on around us.”

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or Upper Peninsula residents can contact Dial Help at 906-482-4357 or 1-800-562-7622.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is