Suicide Prevention Training May Have Already Saved Lives


Department of Human Services launches suicide prevention training for staff

SALEM – It was not what Don Erickson, Department of Human Services Chief Operating Officer, expected when the agency started suicide prevention trainings.

More than 20 staff members said that they had just recently intervened and perhaps helped prevent at least one colleague who may have been contemplating suicide.

“This was not anticipated,” Erickson said.

These interventions came after about 180 DHS employees took one of the three suicide prevention trainings being piloted. The goal is to have every DHS employee trained by the end of the year. Then, the training could be expanded for a variety of DHS stakeholders. The trainings are funded by a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Garret Lee Smith grant managed by the Oregon Health Authority.

“The staff I heard from had all gone through a training. They told me they recognized that a fellow staff member was feeling down and had made some dark comments,” Erickson said.

These actions triggered a conversation, such as saying, “I’m really concerned about you. Are you thinking about killing yourself?” All of the evidence-based prevention trainings guide trainees through these conversations.

These interventions show the need for such training. The facts about suicide also show a compelling need:

  • In Oregon, the suicide rate is one per 17,000 people.
  • On average, one person dies by suicide every 100 hours in Oregon.
  • Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States.
  • Oregon ranks 14th in the country for number of suicides.

Another reason for training is that suicides are highly preventable. An empathetic conversation–especially for someone who has had suicide prevention training– can make a difference.

“I feel we have an obligation to prepare our staff for suicide prevention. There are more than 9,000 staff who connect in varying ways with more than one million people. Our staff will inevitably encounter someone who is struggling with this issue,” Erickson said.

Suicide prevention resources: If you are contemplating suicide or thinking about ending your life please call: USA National Suicide Hotline; 1-800-SUICIDE; 800-273-TALK; 800-784-2433; 800-273-8255

Employee Assistance Program (EAP): for confidential help call 24/7; Portland: 503-639-3009; Salem: 503-588-2320 (toll-free.)

About Author

Christine Stone is a Communications Officer with the Department of Human Services.

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