From left to right: Jerry Reed- plenary presenter, Chris Maxwell- Conference planning committee (Kansas), Dese’Rae Stage- plenary presenter, Scott Perkins- Missouri Suicide Prevention Project Director, Peter Wyman- plenary presenter, and Liz Sale- MIMH Evaluation Director.
August/04/2015 | by Dan Musgrave
For more than a decade, the suicide rate in Missouri has been higher than the rate nationally. In 2013, that rate hit an all time high as over 1000 Missourians lost their lives to suicide.
The Midwest Regional Suicide Prevention Conference, held in Kansas City, MO last month, sought to address this growing trend, not just in Missouri, but across the Midwest. With the driving theme of “Preventing Suicide Together”, The Midwest Regional Suicide Prevention Conference was the first regional conference of its kind in 16 years. By all accounts, it was a success.
The conference drew 273 attendees from 17 states, including, top national experts on suicide prevention, health care professionals, and crisis center staff among others. The conference, through over 40 presentations, covered a wide array of topics related to suicide including risk assessment, safety planning and prevention efforts among various populations, such as teens, LGBT individuals, and active military.
While at the conference, attendees posted over 3000 tweets concerning their experience, which extended the reach of the conference and its participants well beyond Kansas City. From those tweets, over 6.7 million impressions were made.
The Missouri Suicide Prevention Project, a joint effort between the Missouri Department of Mental Health and the Missouri Institute of Mental Health at UMSL, played a major role in organizing the event. Having hosted a successful annual state conference since 2006, the project partnered with the Missouri Mental Health Foundation and the state suicide prevention programs from Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska to host the event. This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Garrett Lee Smith (GLS) Memorial Act which has provided three federal youth suicide prevention grants to the state, and the regional conference helped conclude their third GLS grant. The conference was funded through a number of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration grants.
There are a number of resources available for individuals looking for information or help concerning suicide. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), connects callers to trained counselors at a crisis center in your area, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Alternatively, the group’s website (www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org) offers additional information and live chat with counselors.
In 2013, MIMH introduced the Suicide Lifeguard mobile app to help walk one through how to help someone with suicidal thoughts. The app is free and available for both Android and iOS devices. In addition to the app, the project has also worked with Partners in Prevention to provide a brief online training for community members throughout the state. The free program, Missouri Ask Listen Refer, can be accessed at: www.moasklistenrefer.org. Partners in Prevention also offers a campus version for faculty, staff, and students of UMSL at: www.asklistenrefer.org/umsl.