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September is National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month and Community Suicide Prevention of Eastern Idaho is inviting community members to attend its annual conference this year virtually to learn about actions individuals can take to prevent suicide and better support those who have lost loved ones to suicide. Continuing education units will be available for professionals.

The conference features keynote speaker Dr. Thomas Joiner, on Why People Die by Suicide, from his book of the same title. Joiner, Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychology at Florida State University, proposes three factors that put an individual at greatest risk for suicide: the feeling of being a burden on loved ones; the sense of isolation; and the learned ability to hurt oneself. He will relate this information to developments in suicide prevention, treatment, and to understanding the experience of suicide loss.

Rhonda D’Amico, Suicide Prevention Program Coordinator for Southeastern Idaho Public Health, identifies as a person with lived experience in suicide, meaning that she has experienced thoughts of suicide. “The pathway to hope often starts with a simple conversation, but individuals often mistakenly believe that talking about suicide can plant the idea in a loved one’s mind. In truth, giving a person the space and safety to talk about thoughts of suicide can provide relief and facilitate connections to assistive resources.”

The goals of the conference are to increase knowledge about suicide, to reduce stigma related to emotional health challenges, and to challenge each attendee to take at least one action to reduce suicide. Such actions might include taking a suicide prevention training like Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) or Mental Health First Aid; attending awareness events; donating money; or simply reaching out to a loved one to see how they are doing.

Other conference highlights include Idaho’s Suicide Prevention Plan, How to Build In-Person Connections in a Virtual World, Cultural Perspectives on Suicide, and how youth are making a positive difference. A full agenda is available on the registration link:

The conference is presented by Community Suicide Prevention in partnership with Idaho State University’s Counseling and Testing Services, Optum Idaho, Division of Public Health’s Suicide Prevention Program, and Southeastern Idaho Public Health.

Suicide statistics for the state of Idaho:

According to the Idaho Suicide Prevention Program’s 2020 Fact Sheet, Idaho had the 5th highest suicide rate (23.8 per 100,000) in the U.S. in 2018, at 1.5 times the national rate (14.8 per 100,000). Southeastern Idaho consistently has the highest 5-year average rate (26.3 per 100,000) in the state.

“These statistics are discouraging, but suicide is highly preventable and individuals who experience thoughts of suicide can and do recover when given the help and support needed,” said Rhonda D’Amico, MHE, Suicide Prevention Program Coordinator, Southeastern Idaho Public Health.

Idaho’s Suicide Prevention Hotline number is 1-208-398-4357.

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