Message from the Executive Director
All of these speakers touched on an important emerging theme in the field of suicide prevention—connectedness. While we talk about risk factors and mental illness as keys in identifying youth at risk for suicide, one of the most important protective factors in suicide prevention is how young people connect with others—in their families, in their schools and in their communities.
Dr. Joiner cited a study of one million women in Norway. Those with six or more children had a suicide rate that was about one-fifth the rate of other women. The reason, said Dr. Joiner, is the sense of belongingness—these women are needed by their families and they know it. The importance of a sense of belongingness applies to persons of all ages, said Joiner.
Dr. Poland echoed the theme of connectedness when talking about the school setting, saying, "Every kid needs to feel connected to his school—like it matters that he is there." He added that the "best family value meal" in America is the family dinner table in the kitchen, where parents can connect with their kids.
Dr. Crosby cited one of the CDC's primary strategic initiatives in suicidal behavior prevention as "preventing suicide by building and strengthening connectedness within and among individuals, families and communities."
All three speakers bring home this point: increasing the sense of belonging is paramount to reducing the youth suicide rate. As important as teaching people to recognize risk factors and signs of suicide is, it is equally important to make young people feel that they belong—in their families, schools and communities.
Resources: It's What Families WantWhat do families want most when dealing with their children's mental health? Resources, first and foremost, according to a survey conducted in 2009 and released recently by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
Families asked that mental health resources be included in the waiting room and examining rooms to help them feel more comfortable in raising mental health concerns about their children. Key among their desires is to feel that they are connected to information early and, ideally, before a crisis occurs.
"The need for resources is something we hear about from families on almost a daily basis," said Vanita Halliburton, president of the Grant Halliburton Foundation. "This has been the impetus for the development of H·E·R·E For You, an online resource database that the I AM H·E·R·E Coalition has been working on for the past 18 months."
H·E·R·E For You will offer all stakeholders—including teens and young adults, parents and families, teachers, counselors, physicians, law enforcement, juvenile justice, clergy, social service agencies and others who work with youth—easy access to resources in the community related to teen and young adult mental health.
The coalition has partnered with the North Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians (NTSPP), who will share the same database of resources, but will develop its own website focused on adult mental health.
"We are pleased that our partnership has resulted in a collaborative working relationship between our two groups, while minimizing duplication of efforts," said Ed Nace, M.D., immediate past president of the NTSPP. "We know that this is a resource that is vitally needed in our community."
H·E·R·E For You will have two major components—a searchable database of mental health providers, resources, and services in our community that relate to teen and young adult mental health, and sections dedicated to information about mental illness, treatment, support, funding, crisis intervention and other topics that promote understanding and knowledge.
Representatives from many community agencies, treatment facilities and counseling centers have provided valuable input to the design and information-gathering process.
One group that looks forward to the resources the website will provide is the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), which recently expanded its services to include troubled adolescents.
"We receive calls and e-mails almost daily from individuals looking for a doctor, a therapist, or a support group, or for assistance in meeting some other need," said Bob King, DBSA vice president. "The proposed joint website will greatly improve our ability to better serve those adolescents and adults who come to us for assistance."
Content for H·E·R·E For You is being developed by the Coalition's Resources Team, and an input-gathering form is being tested by providers in all sectors of the community. A request for proposal has been sent to website development vendors, and the pro bono services of an IT consultant have been engaged to help facilitate the building of the database.
Both the Grant Halliburton Foundation and the NTSPP are actively seeking grant funding to complete the project.
"We believe these websites will be a major step forward to helping families in our community," said Ashley Zugelter, executive director of NAMI Dallas. "Not only will patients and families more readily find the help they need, but the websites will be an invaluable resource to physicians, therapists and other helping professionals in finding the proper resources."
Free Online Training Available for Suicide Prevention
"At Risk for High School Educators" is an interactive website training simulation that helps educators build skills and confidence to identify and refer students who may be in psychological distress or at risk for suicide. This program is available only to public high school educators in Texas.
"This program has been well received around the state," said Mary Ellen Nudd, vice president of MHA Texas, "with 96% of users saying they would recommend the training to a friend."
The program meets guidelines for the Best Practices for Suicide Prevention Registry. The one-hour At Risk training is also approved by the Texas Education Agency for CPE credits. For more information, click here.
Toolkit Addresses Suicide Postvention for Schools
Principles that guided the development of the toolkit include the following:
Bullying Bill Passed into Law
Modifications made to the bill call for schools to consult with the bullying child's parent before transferring a student as a means of informing the parents and helping to come to the best decision for all parties involved.
Childhood Trauma Leads to Higher Rates of Mental Health Problems and Obesity
The study examined children living in a violent, low-income neighborhood and documented an unexpectedly strong link between abuse, trauma and neglect and children's mental and physical health. The findings point out that contrary to the belief of some people, children do not get used to trauma and these events remain stressful and impact their physiology.
The study provides compelling evidence that pediatricians should routinely screen children for trauma exposure, said senior author Victor Carrion, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine.
"As simple as it may seem, physicians do not ask about trauma," he said. "And kids get the wrong diagnoses."
The research built on earlier work that linked worsening health in adults with their exposure to nine types of adverse childhood events, including being subjected to various kinds of abuse or neglect; having a household member who abused alcohol or drugs, was incarcerated or was mentally ill; having a mother who was treated violently; and not living in a two-parent household.
The earlier research found that middle-class men in these situations had more chronic disease in adulthood. The results of the current study further highlight the need for early identification of adversity-associated health problems and early intervention.
The new study focused on 701 children treated at a primary care clinic in a San Francisco neighborhood with high rates of poverty and violence. About half of the children were African American and the rest had other ethnic backgrounds. The children's exposure to adverse events was scored on a scale from 0 to 9 and researchers then examined their medical records for evidence of obesity and other behavioral health problems.
Two-thirds of the children in the study had experienced at least one category of adversity and 12 percent had experienced four or more categories. Compared to children with a score of zero, children with a score of four or higher were 30 times more likely to show learning and behavior problems and twice as likely to be obese. Even children with an adversity score of just one were 10 times more likely to have learning and behavior problems as those who had not been exposed to trauma.
Prior research had shown that about 30 percent of children in violent communities experienced symptoms of PTSD, which can include the same learning and behavior problems detected in the new study. However, the researchers point out that a physician unaware that a child has experienced trauma may diagnose ADHD instead of PTSD. The problem with this, say the researchers, is that the two disorders have opposite treatments. Kids with PTSD need psychotherapy, not the stimulant medications given for ADHD.
"Children can recover from PTSD with the appropriate treatment, which is one of approach and not avoidance," Carrion said. "We need to create trauma-informed systems. If trauma goes untreated, it's very costly for the individuals involved and for society in general."
New Legislation Calls For Early Mental Health Intervention and Suicide Prevention in SchoolsYouth suicide prevention in Texas received a boost with the passage of new legislation in the 82nd legislative session.
The new bill also requires schools to establish a procedure for providing notice of a student identified as being at risk for suicide to the parent or guardian of the student within a reasonable amount of time after early warning signs are detected.
The bill's authors, Rep. Garnet Coleman, Rep. Jessica Farrar, Rep. Marisa Marquez, and senate sponsor Sen. Rodney Ellis, were honored with the Public Policy Leadership Award at the Texas Suicide Prevention Symposium in June for their efforts in getting HB 1386 passed in the current legislative session. Also recognized were committee chairwomen Rep. Lois Kolkhorst and Sen. Florence Shapiro.
"We've heard too many tragic stories of children and teenagers who have taken their own lives due to emotional distress," said Rep. Coleman. "This loss of life can be prevented. It's important that we let parents know of any early warning signs in their child's behavior so that we can prevent a bad outcome. It is the parents who can best care for their children."
Rep. Coleman cited the bill as one of his most important legislative priorities. For more information on the bill, click here.
Upcoming EventsI AM H·E·R·E Coalition Meetings
Tuesday, July 26
Thursday, September 15
Tuesday, October 25
4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Center for Community Cooperation, 2900 Live Oak St., Dallas, Texas 75204 (Google map)
"Suicide, Listen Up! Education, Awareness and Intervention"
Thursday, July 28, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Mesquite Convention Center
1750 Rodeo Dr.
Mesquite, TX 75149
Presented by the North Texas Suicide Prevention Coalition, the conference will focus on community approaches to suicide prevention. Keynote speakers will be Richard Lieberman, Ph.D., and Scott Poland, Ed.D., both nationally recognized for their work in suicide prevention in schools. Other sessions will focus on the links between gay youth and suicide, alcohol and drug dependence and suicide, and Latinos and suicide. Cost for the conference is $40 and includes continental breakfast and lunch. Six hours of CEUs will be offered. For more information, contact John Dornheim at (214) 335-8334 or email@example.com.
NAMI Dallas Open House
Thursday, August 4, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.
2812 Swiss Ave.
Dallas, TX 75204
NAMI Dallas celebrates its new location. All are invited and doors will be open to visitors all day. Support groups will be held on site at the new location from 6 to 7 p.m.
"The New Age of Bullying, 2nd Annual Conference"
Saturday, August 13, 8:30 a.m. to noon
Salesmanship Club, Oak Cliff Campus
106 E. Tenth St.
Dallas, TX 75203
"The New Age of Bullying, 2nd Annual Conference," sponsored by the I AM H·E·R·E Coalition, will present information on when bullying becomes harassment, how to address the cycle of bullying in the classroom, cyberbullying and other dangers of new technology. Keynote speaker will be Bully Initiative State Coordinator Rod Pruitt, who will present "Behaviors of Bullies and Traits of Targets." A panel of students who have been victims of bullying will share their experiences. A panel discussion about successful interventions that work will feature Communities in Schools, The Family Place's Be Project and Rachel's Challenge. Capping off the morning's conference will be a short skit about bullying by area students. The conference is free of charge and CEUs are being provided, but registration is required. For more information, contact Diana Weaver at 972-744-9798 or DWeaver@GrantHalliburton.org. Click here to register.
"Caron Cares: A Day of Discovery and Recovery"
Friday, September 9, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Fairmont Hotel
1717 North Akard St.
Dallas, TX 75201
"Caron Cares: A Day of Discovery and Recovery" is a conference presented as a community service for parents, professionals and the public who want to learn more about alcoholism, eating disorders and drug addiction. The event includes a keynote breakfast speaker, a choice of two seminar sessions and concludes with a luncheon keynote speaker. Cost is $150 and CEUs will be provided where applicable. Discounts are available for students and clergy. Proceeds will provide scholarships for alcohol and drug addiction treatment in the Dallas Metroplex.
"When Life Hands You Teenagers"
Wednesday, September 21, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Communities Foundation of Texas
5500 Caruth Haven Lane
Dallas, TX 75225
"When Life Hands You Teenagers," presented by the Grant Halliburton Foundation, is designed for parents, counselors, educators and other people who work with teens. Speakers include the following:
"Talk to Me: Connecting with Teens in Crisis—Become Part of the Solution!"
Tuesday, September 27, 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
University of Texas at Dallas, Student Union
800 West Campbell Rd.
Richardson, TX 75080
The 2011 Teen CONTACT Conference will bring together professionals from all fields as they share proven techniques for guiding a teen through a crisis. Cost is $55 and CONTACT is offering 4.5 CEUs. Contact Maria Espinosa at firstname.lastname@example.org or 972-233-0866, extension 320 for more information. Click here to register.