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Discussion Title Suicide Prevention - You Can Help!

Chat with Laura Yager, the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board's director of partnership and resource development, and Amy Parmentier, coordinator for social work for Fairfax County Public Schools, on Wednesday, July 23 at 11 a.m. about how to talk to someone who is experiencing depression or thoughts of suicide and what you can do to get them the help they need. Learn about a new, free, interactive online suicide prevention training course, a new crisis/suicide prevention text line and other community resources for mental health.


Laura Yager : Good morning. Thank you for joining Amy Parmentier from Fairfax County Public Schools and me for this live discussion on suicide prevention. We will be talking about ways you can help someone who may be at risk, where to go for help, and some of the great mental health and wellness resources we have in our community. We appreciate the questions that have been submitted and look forward to answering any additional questions. I will be responding on behalf of both Amy and myself this morning. 


Betty : Are there programs that can help people in the community to know what to do if they think a person has a mental problem?

Laura Yager : Always, if you think someone is at imminent risk of harming his or herself or others, call 911. If someone is experiencing a psychiatric crisis they can call CSB emergency services at 703-573-5679 at anytime day or night. If you think someone is needs mental health services or to be checked for a mental health concern, you can call the CSB's Entry, Assessment and Referral office at 703-383-8500 for information, referral and to get your questions answered.  If a student in Fairfax County Public Schools needs assistance, they or a friend or family member can contact a teacher, administrator, the school counselor, school social worker, or school psychologist.  Every school in Fairfax has these staff available to help.  A community hotline through CrisisLink is also available 24-7 by phone at 703-527-4077 or text at 703-940-0888.  Thanks for your question.


Anonymous User : If someone you suspect is suicidal refuses to get help, what are the options available to help that person?

Laura Yager : If someone is at immediate risk and refusing assistance, always call 911. We have many police officers who have been trained in mental health crisis intervention and who are very skilled in these situations. Other options are to call CSB Emergency Services at 703-573-5679 and/or bring the individual into the Emergency Services office. A person on the call can direct you to the nearest location.  These are the places that will assist if hospitalization or other options are needed.  We encourage you to talk with the person about their concerns in an open and calm manner.  Don't leave them alone.  With help, people with mental health conditions can improve and recover.  Offering that reassurance can be very helpful.


Paul : I heard something about a first aid program about mental health. Can you tell me about that? Can someone come to our church and teach a class?

Laura Yager : The CSB offers Mental Health First Aid training throughout the community. Information is available at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/csb.  Classes are offered on a regular basis and customized classes for your church or other organizations can be arranged.  Classes are available in Spanish.  For school year 2014-15, classes will be offered for teachers, students, and other school personnel throughout the county.  Information will be available when school starts in the fall.  We have trained over 1000 community members since this program launched. It equips participants to learn how to respond to a person in a mental health crisis and is a great stigma reducer.  We encourage you to check out available classes and take one soon! 


Harry : Are there specific strategies local school officials are using to try to help suicidal children and teens?

Laura Yager : Suicide prevention is a communitywide effort involving the schools, the CSB, private nonprofits, faith communities, families, students, policymakers, and many others.  Steps that the schools are taking include a launch of online suicide prevention training for all high school teachers and school staff. Any community member can also access this online training and simulation at www.kognito.com/fairfax.  School staff will also be taking Mental Health First Aid training to be offered throughout the schools.  Last year, over 80 schools across Fairfax County held wellness weeks to focus on stress reduction, building resiliency, and seeking help when there are concerns.  This fall, FCPS will also be rolling out information on the new crisis text line offered through the CSB and CrisisLink. This text line is available now to everyone in the community at 703-940-0888 anytime, 24-7.  It is through these partnerships and collaborations that we can really make a difference to prevent suicide and strengthen our community. Thanks for the question! 


Debbie Mills-Harris : Do you have any statistics as far as the suicide rate for youth, adults and seniors? Also, any research on a certain time of year where there is a spike (increase) in suicides? Thank you

Laura Yager : Suicide rates tend to be higher in the spring months, peaking in April and are below average during the winter months with the lowest rate in December.  In Fairfax, our rates tend to be lower than the rest of the state and the nation.  You can access specific data around suicide at the Virginia State Medical Examiner's office. You can also check out our local youth survey results (that includes depression and suicidal thoughts) at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/youthsurvey. We continue to focus our efforts around suicide prevention because every individual who dies by suicide is a loss to all of us.  Suicide is often preventable when we are able to recognize warning signs and offer help.  Anyone in the community can help prevent suicide by knowing the warning signs, some of which are loss of interest in school or regular activities, withdrawal from friends or family, feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, self-blame or guilt, angry or irritable mood, feeling that there is no way out; need to escape, talking about not being around.  Talking to someone about suicide will not cause them to act on their feelings. If you do talk to someone you suspect is thinking about suicide, it is important to talk without negative judgment and with confidence. This can be a hard conversation but, in fact, talking directly to a person can open lines of communication and can save a person's life.


Adi : What measures have been taken or do you believe should be taken to address inherent suicide triggers for students (stress, bullying, etc.) that cannot be realistically eliminated?

Laura Yager : Stress, bullying, drug and alcohol use, mental health concerns, and relationship problems are considered risk factors among many but do not cause suicide.  By building protective factors that mitigate these and other risk factors, we can strengthen the resiliency that naturally exists in youth and others.  Research demonstrates that by doing this, our outcomes are stronger and our youth are better able to meet life's challenges and thrive.  This is what we want for everyone.  We work to select programs and strategies that both reduce risk factors and build protective factors.  For more information about how you can strengthen these areas, do check out the youth survey and related resources at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/youthsurvey


Woodson Student : As a student who was very close to a scuicide victim, its hard to see the good that having adults come in and talk about it is having on my peers. Do you plan on having someone more age appropriate (Like a college student or other HS student) come and talk to kids? Not as a motivational speaker or person who you hire to speak, but someone who more fully understands what it feels like to be a teen in 2014?

Laura Yager : This is a great question! We are very sorry for your loss.  There is a big movement in this field to include more peer-focused supports and interventions that are relevant to young people. This includes getting young people engaged in organizing and implementing strategies that will be meaningful to them.  Sometimes hearing from someone your own age means a lot more than hearing from an adult. Please feel free to talk to your school teachers and administrators about including students in these efforts.  Also, if you or others on this chat want to get involved in planning efforts, a communitywide suicide prevention plan is being developed right now.  Contact Jesse Ellis at jesse.ellis@fairfaxcounty.gov  to learn more or get involved.  We welcome everyone with an interest!  Thanks for your question!


Laura Yager :

We have had a lot of great questions this morning, but unfortunately we are now out of time. On behalf of Amy Parmentier, FCPS, and me – Laura Yager, CSB – we want to thank you for your participation in this online chat, and we welcome your continued participation in our shared efforts to promote a healthy community. If you have more questions regarding the CSB, email me at laura.yager@fairfaxcounty.gov  If you have a question regarding FCPS, email Amy at  AGParmentier@fcps.edu  Thanks again and have a great day!

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