Bringing the community together to prevent suicides

Dec 7, 2018

Tri-town public health nurses are working together to inform community members of all ages about suicide prevention, and to offer support to anyone who might be contemplating ending their lives or who has lost a loved one.

For Amanda Stone RN, the public health nurse in Mattapoisett, Connie Dolan RN, her counterpart in Rochester and Kathy Downey RN, who serves as public health nurse in Mattapoisett, it wasn’t a single event that started their suicide prevention effort, but rather the knowledge that it is a public health issue.

“I was worried about in the elderly, since it’s well known that it’s an issue that older people face,” said Downey, “and then I was hearing from students about it as well… I hear a lot [of things that really have an impact] and want to make sure that there are systems in place to support people.”

To that end, the public health nurses hosted a Community Conversation on Suicide Oct. 15, which Downey described as “really well-attended.”

The public health nurses also held a Suicide-awareness Candlelight Vigil at the First  Congregational Church of Marion on Nov. 17.

However, the group also wants to go beyond events when tackling the issue.

At Old Rochester Regional Elise Frangos, the assistant superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction developed a flyer for the bathrooms with various health resources for students that might need them.

“The students that came to talk about suicide said that that was helpful,” Downey said. The public health nurses have considered developing a similar poster for suicide prevention resources.

In December the public health nurses will hold two events related to suicide-prevention. One is a free QPR training, which will teach people how to question, persuade and refer people who are having a crisis. The workshop will be held Dec. 12 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Music Hall.

The three will also start a longer-running “Kitchen Table Grief Support Conversation” for Suicide Loss Survivors on December 18th in the First Congregational Church of Marion Community Center from 6:30 to 8 p.m. After that, the group will meet on the fourth Tuesday of every month for six months.

Though the three nurses have realized that they can do more together than they can alone, they are also turning to other groups to help.

The group regularly works with Jennie Babcock, the chair of the Plymouth County Suicide Prevention Coalition on programming, presentations, and resources. Tri-town police departments have also dealt with the issue, and St. Anthony’s and St. Rita’s have also reached out about suicide prevention efforts. 

As public health nurses, Dolan Downey and Stone they realize that they can do a lot. But they also believe that the more people from the community that get involved, the more that can be accomplished.

“It’s not singularly a public health issue, or a schools issue, or a police issue. We’re all working on it together,” Downey said, adding that “There’s enough for everyone to help with.”

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call or text the Samaritans Statewide Hotline at 1-877-870-HOPE (4673), call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or the Trevor Helpline for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth at 866-4-U-TREVOR (488-7386).