CTC to host annual World Suicide Prevention Day Walk and Picnic

HOUGHTON — September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and to mark it Houghton/Keweenaw Communities that Care is hosting its sixth annual Suicide Prevention Awareness Walk on Saturday.

Houghton/Keweenaw CTC coordinator Callisto Cortez said this year the theme is Families of the 906 Suicide Prevention Picnic.

Cortez said that CTC this year went more with a picnic them, although they are still hosting the walk across the bridge.

“We wanted to make it more a message of creating a family within the community,” she explained. “that we, in the community — we’re a family. We really wanted to highlight that we are here for each other.”

Whether family or friends who are grieving the loss of a family member, close friend or even an acquaintance, those who are feeling low, depressed or have suicidal thoughts of their own, Cortez said it is important for them to know that there is support for them in the community.

Ginny Machiela, grant writer and compliance manager for H/KCTC, said that the first Suicide Prevention Awareness Walk hosted by the organization, in 2016, attracted around a dozen people. About 155 people attended last year’s event.

“Our hope this year,” said Cortez, “is to at least double that number to make people aware that the support is there for them.

The bridge walk will occur Saturday, Sept. 10, which is World Suicide Prevention Day. The event is set from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Ray Kestner Waterfront in Houghton.

World Suicide Prevention Day(WSPD) is organized by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) and endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO). The event represents a global commitment to focus attention on suicide prevention.

The overall goal of this day is to raise awareness about suicide prevention worldwide. Objectives include promoting stakeholder collaboration and self-empowerment to address self-harm and suicide through preventative action. These can be achieved through capacity building of health care providers and other relevant actors, positive and informative messaging aimed at the general population and at-risk groups such as young people, and facilitating open discussion on mental health at home, at school, in the workplace, etc. Those contemplating or affected by suicide are also encouraged to share their stories and seek professional help.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) relates that Suicide Prevention Awareness Month a time to raise awareness of this stigmatized, and often taboo, topic. the goal is to shift public perception, spread hope and share vital information to people affected by suicide. NAMI’s goal, like that of CTC, is ensuring that individuals, friends and families have access to the resources they need to discuss suicide prevention and to seek help.

The stigma surrounding suicide and suicide awareness is discussed on the website of the Centre for Suicide Prevention.

“Misunderstanding, ignorance, and fear are at the root of stigmatization, and these factors have inflicted immense suffering on those who are in any way perceived as ‘not normal.'” the site states.

“The many myths associated with suicide have also contributed to the perseverance of stigma,” the website continues. “Notions that people who kill themselves are ‘cowards’ and ‘selfish’ persist to this day, while those (who attempt suicide) are often viewed as ‘attention seekers’ who are not to be taken seriously. The idea that suicidality is hereditary can sometimes serve to further torture families who experience a suicidal death.”

A major mandate of suicide prevention has been to dispel these myths and to educate and inform the public in an attempt to eliminate stigma, states the website, which echoes the message of CTC, NAMI and the IASP.

The people who are responsible for perpetuating suicidal stigma engage in behaviors such as distrust, stereotyping, shunning, and avoidance toward those affected by suicide.

Suicide Call Back Service, of Australia occurs. It states that suicide remains an unspoken and avoided topic in Australia, and common labels are applied to the person who ended their life; they’re selfish or they took the easy way out. The unfortunate side effect of this can result in people not seeking help when they need it, while those who have lived experience of suicide internalize their feelings of shame because of this perception of how they’re viewed by their peers and society.

“Stigma also affects those bereaved by suicide,” the service’s website states. “Research suggests that those bereaved by suicide report higher levels of rejection, shame and blame than other bereaved people. Misinformed reactions to suicide can result in avoidance and uncertainty about how to approach someone about their grief and loss. Many people bereaved by suicide find themselves avoiding the disclosure of the cause of death as a result of the anticipated stigmatised responses, which contributes to a lack of awareness in the community.”

Shifting public perceptions, raising awareness, sharing vital information, providing hope and education, ending stigma, are just a few reasons for Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and activities such as CTC’s annual bridge walk.

No registration is required, and the public is welcome. There will be an FAQ booth with resources available to everyone in attendance. Volunteers are there to answer any question or concern you may have.

CTC is a group of community members and key leaders working together to lower rates of youth problem behaviors like substance abuse, delinquency, school drop-out, violence, depression and more.

CTC looks at risk factors for youth problem behaviors. Risk factors are variables that increase the chances of youth developing a problem behavior. In the same way that poor diet is a risk factor for heart disease, there are specific risk factors that contribute to youth problem behaviors. By identifying the biggest risk factors in our community, CTC can put programs in place that reduce those risk factors.

For more information on CTC, visit https://houghtonkeweenawctc.com/.


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