Thriving While Living With Suicide: Activities in KC-Lawrence-Topeka Area

Red candle: in honor and memory of loved ones who died by suicide
Purple candle: living with suicide grief
Blue candle: living with suicide thoughts, self-harm, attempts
Yellow candle: supporting suicidal loved ones
So many have more than one of those experiences.

v.2019.06.12 at 9:40pm CDT
Especially to: Kansas City-Lawrence-Topeka Area Friends
Re: Reducing suicide risk by helping people thrive
At and since the April 2019 annual conference of the American Association of Suicidology, AAS members and others have had many “loud” conversations about the impact of language, culture, and environment on the high number of suicide attempts and deaths in the USA. We need all of us, representing all the experiences with suicide, at “the table” working together to help more people have more reasons to be glad to keep living, even though life will continue to include challenges.
My experience with suicide is both personal and professional, including 34 years as Director of Headquarters Counseling Center (in Lawrence, KS), and since December 2013, working privately with individuals and families in a very non profit way with high accessibility and low fees. I was told in 2015 that I do not fit in the Douglas County (KS) Suicide Prevention Coalition. I value collaboration, and finding and sharing information. I hope that by sharing information in quarterly or so emails (most recent of which I updated for this sharable note), and by some of you sharing information with me, we work together to provide more help to more people.
Support groups that help reduce suicide risk, based in Lawrence, KS:

NAMI Douglas County, KS hosts support groups each Wednesday from 6:00-7:30pm at Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vermont. The first Wednesday of the month is a one hour combined group for people living with mental illnesses as well as family-friend support people, plus a 30-minute educational presentation. Other Wednesdays, the two groups meet separately. NAMI Douglas County also provides the 12-session Family-To-Family program each spring. I serve on the Steering Committee and believe wholeheartedly in NAMI locally and in other communities across the country. More info about NAMI Douglas County is at: https://www.facebook.com/NAMI.Dg.Co.KS

In Lawrence, Kansas I host support groups (and special events) for adults with experiences with suicide. These groups welcome people from KC-Lawrence-Topeka area. Each group is focused on one type of experience, although many people have two or three of these types of experiences: suicide grief; one’s own suicide thoughts, self harm, or attempts; and/or supporting a suicidal loved one. For more info please email M.Epstein.LMSW@gmail.com
Suicide bereavement support groups in other communities:
And wait, there’s more!

1) For those of you who are mental health caregivers, who have experienced the suicide death of a colleague, a client, a friend or family member, the Clinician Survivor Task Force of the American Association of Suicidology is a resource for information and support http://cliniciansurvivor.org/

2) For those who are interested in some mental health resources by and for black youth and adults, I would send some information that I gathered for a family in NYC whose teen is suicidal.

3) For those who are interested in mental health resources for people with TBI and suicidal thoughts, I would send some information that I have gathered for an area family.

And these upcoming special events!

Douglas County (KS) Behavioral Health Prevention Summit
Thursday, June 25, 2019 at DoubleTree by Hilton, Lawrence, KS
Info, including how to register: http://www.dccca.org/2019-douglas-county-behavioral-health-prevention-summit/

2019 Regional Missouri Suicide Prevention Conferences:
Finding Help and Hope in the Intersections of Despair

July 23 in Kansas City, MO; July 24 in Columbia, MO; July 25 in Cape Girardeau, MO

Building Partnerships to Address Suicide among Adolescents and Young Adults in Region 7 (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska)
Thursday, August 8, 2019 in Kansas City, MO

USA’s National Suicide Prevention Week
Sunday, September 8 – Saturday, September 14, 2019.

World Suicide Prevention Day is always on September 10.

SASS-MoKan 16th Annual Remembrance Walk
Sunday, September 8, 2019, starting at 9:00am. at Loose Park, 5200 Wornall Rd., KC, MO. For people bereaved by suicide. $25 charge includes registration and shirt. More info from Bonnie at bonswade@gmail.com or http://www.sass-mokan.com/Sass-walk/

Words Save Lives 2019.09.10
Tuesday, September 10, 2019, our annualWorld Suicide Prevention Day event: performance night, to build connection and a sense of being valued for everyone at the mic and in the room. Lawrence, KS venue and more info to come from M.Epstein.LMSW@gmail.com and at https://www.facebook.com/events/399224907600627/

A Night To Remember
Friday, September 13, 2019 at Gage Park Amphitheater, Topeka, KS, “to celebrate our loved ones” who died by suicide. Contact Alicia Newberry at Alicia.Newberry@se2.com

7th Annual Shawnee County Suicide Prevention Coalition 5K Walk/Run
Saturday, September 14, 2019 at Crestview Shelter, Topeka, KS. For more info scspcoalition@gmail.com Registration athttps://www.eventbrite.com/e/7th-annual-5k-runwalk-tickets-59713659162

13th annual Freedom of Expression retreat
October 12-13, 2019 at The Light Center in southern Douglas County, KS, our 13th annual retreat for people with loved ones who have died by suicide. More info to come from M.Epstein.LMSW@gmail.com

SASS-MoKan Healing and Hope for the Holidays
Saturday, November 16, 2019 from 1:00-3:00 pm at Shawnee Mission Hospital, Rogers Conference Center, Shawnee Mission, KS More info from Bonnie at bonswade@gmail.com or http://www.sass-mokan.com/remembranceservices/

International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day community workshop
Saturday, November 23, 2019. Lawrence, KS venue and more info to come from M.Epstein.LMSW@gmail.com

53rd Annual Conference of the American Association of Suicidology
April 22-25, 2020 at the Marriott Downtown Waterfront, Portland, OR
Info will be available at https://www.suicidology.org/

During 2019,  (TLC) in southern Douglas County, KS will host a variety of healing workshops for grief, including grief after death by suicide. Our “Thriving While Living With Suicide” Team in 2019 is M.E.; Robin Goff, BSN, RN, MAV, TLC founder and leader, energy healer, bereavement specialist; healer and bereavement specialist, Donna Hanschu; and Shannon Musgrave, Intuitive Medium. Donna and Shannon will be offering a workshop on “Signs & Symbols of Our Loved Ones” with date and location to be announced. Learn about TLC events on Facebook, through their e-newsletter, and at https://lightcenter.info

Very best wishes,

PS Love really IS the answer. Yet to those of us who have lost loved ones to suicide, I say: If love could have saved our loved ones, they would have lived forever.

Marcia Epstein, LMSW
Specialist in life changes, reducing suicide risk,

and suicide bereavement support
Steering Committee Member, NAMI Douglas County

Lawrence, Kansas, USA

Some Things I Believe To Be True

Without laughter we explode, and that’s just not pretty.

Grief is about love, and there is no end to either.

Every person deserves joy in their life.

Shame and self-blame prevent healing.

Each person is doing the best they can with the info they have at the time.

Corollary: sometimes one’s best is not good enough.

It’s never too late to learn and change.

Substitute rather than try to avoid.

Plan for what to do WHEN we mess up again, because we will.  We are human.

Awareness + TOOLS = Change

Some of our guiding thoughts about ourselves are LIES.

Worries about the future are actually unhealed experiences from the past.

Sometimes what we have not yet spoken literally leaves us breathless.

Ask if the person has the energy to listen BEFORE venting.

The fee for every venting session is the sharing of at least one “highlight,” one good thing in this day/week/time of life.


And also…

Love really IS the answer.

Getting to #LifeWorthLiving

Helping people stick around long enough to learn skills that help them get to #LifeWorthLiving is my passion. Some people call that suicide prevention; and call September, Suicide Prevention Month; the week with September 10, (USA) National Suicide Prevention Week; and September 10, World Suicide Prevention Day.
Year-round, lots of people I know share hotline numbers on their social media. Making sure every person has access to support is a kindness. We also need to share additional kindness, including in the form of additional tools. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in realizing that calling a hotline is not the first thing I want to do when I’m feeling bad. And being human means sometimes feeling bad, so I need tools in addition to hotline numbers.
I know hotlines. I served as a volunteer counselor and then as Director of Headquarters Counseling Center in Lawrence, Kansas from 1975 through 2013. And after that I helped a bit with Trans Lifeline. Yep, I’m old. I have experience and expertise. I am committed to learning, which to me is part of living. I am no fan of “awareness campaigns.” I am a fan of teaching a mix of tools, so that at least some of them work for anyone who needs them.
One of my favorite tools that comes from suicide prevention (and is intended to be used collaboratively in therapy) is the Suicide Safety Plan, copyright to Barbara Stanley and Gregory K. Brown, with detailed info about how to use it at www.SuicideSafetyPlan.com This is a great model for creating a personal plan for staying safe from any unhealthy behavior. I often explain safety plans as a way to figure out the detours you can take to avoid traveling down a well-worn path that gets where you really do not want to go. And I remind people that you have to work at remembering to use those detours until they feel as natural as that old path. Learning any new thing is bound to feel awkward at first.
So instead of only telling someone about hotlines, how about encouraging them to sit down (ideally with a trusted person), and their writing tools (or apps) of choice? The goal is to create a Safety Plan that the person will really use. That also means having the plan where the person can find it. Creating the plan will take a while, and the plan will be even more helpful after it’s updated now and then.
The Suicide Safety Plan from Stanley & Brown includes:
Step 1: Warning signs (emotions, thoughts, images, mood, situation, behavior, physical sensations) that a crisis may be developing
Step 2: Internal coping strategies – Things I can do to take my mind off my problems without contacting another person (relaxation technique, physical activity, or other)
Step 3: People and social settings that provide distraction (places you can get to, and phone numbers for the people)
Step 4: People whom I can ask for help (with phone numbers for the people)
Step 5: Professionals or agencies I can contact during a crisis (with phone numbers for the people and agencies)
Step 6: Making the environment safe and Reasons for living: The one thing that is most important to me and worth living
Step 5 is the one where all those hotlines and such belong. Step 5. Not Step 1.
Some of my favorite recommendations for free, 24/7 support for a person in the USA are:
~ Crisis Text Line: text “Start” to 741741, www.crisistextline.org
~ National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, main number 800.273.8255 (TALK), TTY 800.799.4889, https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org
~ Trans Lifeline, 877.565.8860, www.translifeline.org
~ The Trevor Project, 866,488,7386 plus chat and text options, www.thetrevorproject.org ~ Veterans Crisis Line, 800.273.8255, Option 1, plus chat and text options www.veteranscrisisline.net
Plus these peer-to-peer supports:
~ 7 Cups of Tea, www.7cups.com
Thanks to the American Association of Suicidology (AAS) www.suicidology.org, I am part of not only the USA national, but the international, suicide prevention community. I am very proud and honored to be there. To borrow words about world peace from folk artist Brian Andreas of www.StoryPeople.com, we are “a really big, strange family,” where new family members are welcome. As AAS says, “Suicide Prevention is Everyone’s Business.”
And as Henry James said, “Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” And that, my friends, is something we can each do for ourselves and for others to prevent suicide.


PS Please share this info, which you will also find in this post on my page for the support group Stayin’ Alivewww.facebook.com/Stayin.Alive.Lawrence.KS