September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.
The Rivers and Lakes Suicide Prevention Coalition will host a month-long virtual activity called “Chalk it up,” to help spread awareness. The Rivers and Lakes Suicide Prevention Coalition is made up of community members from various agencies and backgrounds in Aitkin, Cass, Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties. Members meet monthly and new members are always welcome.
Throughout the month, people can draw or write a message of hope, awareness or promise on a sidewalk ot driveway and share the messages on the Rivers and Lakes Suicide Prevention Coalition Facebook page.
Anyone can contribute, all ages and abilities are welcome to showcase their message. Share with friends, neighbors, co-workers, families, etc.
Those needing chalk can contact Arlene Selander from Selander Coaching and Consulting at email@example.com or call/text 218-820-2813.
The Rivers and Lakes Suicide Prevention Coalition originated from the Minnesota Department of Veteran’s Affairs. Preventing veteran suicide is a priority of the MN DVA. Suicide has claimed more than 100 Minnesota veteran lives per year during the past five years.
As this rate continues to increase, especially among younger veterans, the MN DVA is collaborating with others to identify the root causes of veteran suicide and create an innovative, cooperative way to reverse the trend.
The coalition formation was in response to the “Governor’s Challenge,” in March 2020. Minnesota was selected as one of seven states to participate in the “Governor’s Challenge” to eliminate veterans’ death by suicide. This is a collaborative effort with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Selander said, “Grassroots efforts are how we will be able to make a difference. That is a key takeaway for the Minnesota Governor’s Challenge Team.” The team recently attended a virtual training sponsored by the VA, VHA and SAMHSA and finalized Minnesota’s Veteran Suicide Prevention Strategic Plan. This plan will be implemented and includes four priority areas:
• Identifying and screening those currently serving in the military, veterans and families at risk for suicide
• Promoting connectedness and improving care transitions
• Conducting lethal means safety planning and education
• Ensuring a comprehensive approach
Coalitions have been formed in all 87 counties in Minnesota. Some of these coalitions involve a single county, while others, like the Rivers and Lakes SPC, cover several counties with one group. Objectives of these groups are to support individuals, families and communities to increase protection from suicide risk; implement effective programs by clinical and community preventative service providers to promote wellness, build resilience and prevent suicidal behaviors; promote suicide prevention as a component to health care services; increase the timeliness and usefulness of data systems relevant to suicide prevention and improve the ability to collect, analyze and use the information for action.
“While serving the veteran population was the starting point of this group, we aim to bring awareness to everyone,” Selander said.
“September is Suicide Prevention Month so there will be many events and training taking place across the state and nation,” continued Selander. “RLSPC wanted to host some sort of event that everyone, young and old, could take part in. The subject of suicide is very heavy and we wanted to lighten it up a bit and take some of the discomfort of talking about it away so we came up with a sidewalk art idea. We are encouraging people to create messages of hope and encouragement, love and positivity in their driveways, on sidewalks throughout their community, anywhere! You do not need to be a resident or work in the service area to participate and share.
“We are always welcoming new members to our coalition. Members do not need to attend every monthly meeting, you can attend when it fits with your schedule and you will receive the monthly meeting minutes via email whether in attendance or not. Due to the vast area of coverage all meetings are held virtually on the third Monday of each month at 9 a.m.
Watch for the warning signs, including a hopeless feeling, talking of suicide and feeling like a burden to others. If someone can get through a suicidal crisis, chances are they will not go on to die by suicide.
Suicide is preventable. There is help available. Call the Crisis Line and Referral Service at 218-828-HELP or text MN to 741741. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255 (free 24 hours a day, seven days a week).
The three digits, 988, have been designated as the new three-digit dialing code that will route callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. When people call, text, or chat 988, they will be connected to trained counselors who will listen, provide support and connect them to resources if necessary.