Chelsea parents gather to learn about suicide prevention

Published 1:14 pm Wednesday, August 23, 2023

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By NOAH WORTHAM | Staff Writer

CHELSEA – Local parents gathered together at Morningstar Methodist Church for a seminar on suicide prevention on Tuesday, Aug. 15.

During the parent seminar, representatives from Compact 2020 and Central Alabama Wellness provided information to inform those in attendance on the warning signs of suicide as well as on how to help those who are experiencing suicidal thoughts.

“We provide educational outreach to help raise awareness,” said Janae Pinson with Compact 2020. “We go into schools and do speeches and assemblies, we see individual classes to try to help reach our students, create a change and raise awareness to prevent substance misuse and promote mental wellness.

“I’ve been so impressed with Chelsea, I’m new to the community and in the two months I’ve been around (I’ve seen that) you guys are a very tight community. It really does take a village to take care of our kids.”

Carlos Sanders, a member of Chelsea Compact and director of Chelsea Citizens Observer Patrol, attended the seminar and spoke to the audience.

“As a director of Citizens Observer Patrol, I’ve been seeing all the (calls to)  911, all the attempted suicides, let alone all the suicides that went through,” he said. “It’s been bothering me for the last two months. And we had had a meeting and all I did was mention one little part and it touched everybody and almost everybody in the group had a story to tell.”

The group then worked together with Zina Cartwell of Central Alabama Wellness to plan the seminar.

During the seminar, guest speakers Gabrielle Pybus of Central Alabama Wellness and Alice Farricker of Nami Montgomery provided presentations and personal examples to the parents in attendance.

“I’m someone who has survived a suicide attempt as well,” Pybus said. “So, when this was brought up I was like, ‘That hits on my heart’ because I was 19 the first time I attempted and I was 21 the second time.

“One of the things that I remember, just being at that age, is just the immense isolation and loneliness. I was someone who moved out of state for college, so I was really and truly on my own. I had roommates—didn’t talk to them. We were all on different paths. And so, I wish I would have had something like this when I was at that age.”

Pybus shared that the definition of suicide is an individual that takes their own life voluntarily and intentionally and shared the four different types of suicide.

  • Egoistic- occurs when an individual does not have social support or friends
  • Altruistic – occurs when a person feels they are sacrificing themselves for the betterment of the group
  • Anomic – occurs when someone is under high stress or feels trapped.
  • Fatalistic – occurs when someone is under extreme expectations or feels there is no way out

“We see that youth suicide ideation, attempt and completion have been steadily going on the rise amongst all age groups,” Pybus said. “We’ve also seen an uptick in individuals wanting to get mental health treatment—which we love. We want them to get that mental health treatment. We want them to get that before there’s the thoughts of suicide.”

Pybus shared risk factors of suicide as well as some protective factors of suicide to help with prevention.

Risk factors

  • Quality of the person’s health – physical and mental
  • Environment – access to lethal means, prolonged stress or issues relating to relationships, bullying, harassment or unemployment
  • History – a person who has a history of previous suicide attempts, has a family history of suicide or has a traumatic event in their past

Protective factors

  • Access to mental health care
  • Connection with family, friends or support system
  • Coping skills for managing stress
  • Limited access to weapons
  • Limited access to medications
  • Religious or cultural beliefs
  • Reduced stigma around the topic of suicide

“When we see someone that is struggling, whether it’s with bad mental health, suicidality, anything in this realm—lovingly approach the person,” Pybus said. “It’s very easy for parents to get overwhelmed because they don’t know how to help their kids in that moment and they’re panicking themselves sometimes. And so, what is coming across for them as worry may come across as anger for the child and then the child’s not going to want to reach out for help.”

Pybus encourages parents in that moment to take a step back and process their emotions and be there for the child and acknowledge what they’ve noticed, express their concern and offer support.

Farricker also spoke during the seminar and provided a personal example.

“In April of 2016, a regular school morning, I got up, woke up my 15-year-old daughter by singing her the good morning song,” she said. “Then I went to wake up my younger and woke him up, heard my husband talking to my 15 year old. I ran off to get dressed. Within five minutes, my daughter was gone. She had taken her life.”

Farricker emphasized that the individuals who take their lives are not always the ones who seem troubled, sometimes they are the “Straight A, good kids that looked happy.”

“What I have found, is our kids today are holding so much in and they are not talking,” she said. “We’ve got to get rid of the stigma and get our kids to talk because they’re holding in and they’re not telling us and obviously that’s what she (her daughter) was doing.”

Farricker said that talking about mental illness needs to become a normal everyday conversation just like physical health.

“Our brain is an organ just like every other part of our body, and we need to make it a normal thing to talk about,” she said. When we are getting strange thoughts, we want our kids to know it’s okay, it’s normal and to say something.”

Mark Puckett, lead pastor of Morningstar Methodist Church, attended the seminar and said he felt this was a good location to hold the event.

“We wanted to be a place for this beginning and we’re here to help and assist, not just Compact 2020, but everyone who is working through these situations right now,” he said. “We want to be a part of the solution for it.”