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Top Six Takeaways from our Annual Suicide Prevention Conference

Content from MindWise Innovations, a service of Riverside Community Care:

This full-day conference was presented by Riverside Trauma Center and MindWise Innovations on February 3, 2022, and focused on what we can be doing in our schools, workplaces, and healthcare settings to create a safer, more resilient future. To everyone who attended our conference this year, thank you. To those who were unable to join us, no problem and we hope to see you next year. To anyone who might be struggling we hope today’s a little better than yesterday and tomorrow brings even more hope. Here are our top six takeaways from Navigating Suicide Prevention: How to Influence A New Era for Workplaces & Communities.


1) Trust, Flexibility, and Respect will Define the Future of Corporate Culture

This year’s event boasted two sessions dedicated to mental health in the workplace and the future of work culture. The main theme we heard from Dr. Lisa Desai, MindWise’s Chief Behavioral Health Officer, is that the ideal corporate culture is based on the core tenets of trust, flexibility, and respect for employee boundaries. Culture includes both the traditional and virtual settings, and establishing a healthy atmosphere is vital to employees reaching their full potential.

Skilled supervisors have faith employees will complete their tasks and embrace the added opportunities for flexibility and trust derived from the remote workplace. Though some employees have access to their work 24/7 via smartphones and laptops, shrewd organizations understand workers should not be expected to answer emails off the clock. Respecting boundaries is crucial to maintaining positive relationships and cultivating a productive work environment.

Watch the full presentation from Dr. Lisa Desai here.

2) The Best Action Item We Heard All Day – Establish Yourself as a Safe Person

One of the most common questions speakers received at our conference was, “How can I, someone who isn’t a trained professional, help people struggling to manage their mental health?”

The best advice we heard came from Gigi Sagansky, host of the Driven Minds podcast: “Establishing yourself as a safe person for someone to come to is EVERYTHING. That is something that everyone can do, regardless of the size of their platform and… You will be shocked by the amount of people that come to you who need someone to talk to.”

Individuals suffering through mental health conditions often feel isolated and there’s nothing more powerful than letting someone know you are there for them. Give a family member, friend, or coworker the grace to show you care, and the space for them to talk about their well-being on their own terms. Sometimes, all it takes is the smallest act of kindness to turn a life around.

Check out the full presentation from our panel discussion for workplaces here.

3) We Need More Diverse Suicide Prevention Research

Suicide prevention is driven by evidence-based programs, which are formed by dedicated researchers after they perform comprehensive studies. However, the vast majority of that research neglects minorities. To properly protect people of color, culturally informed theories of suicide risk and behavior need to be developed and tested.

“We need to figure out from a research perspective, how are these culturally relevant risk factors playing a role,” explained Dr. Arielle Sheftall, Principal Investigator of Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “How exactly do experiences with discrimination, stereotypes, and racism affect our mental health and suicidal behavior? We don’t understand what those connections are and unfortunately we absolutely need to.”

Furthermore, researchers need to explore more suicide prevention methods for neurodiverse children, people who are blind or hard of hearing, and all other marginalized groups to ensure they get the specialized support they need.

View the full presentation from Dr. Areille Sheftall here.

4) Entrapment is a Powerful, Yet Under Analyzed, Indicator of Suicidality

For everyone who could only think of this movie during Rory O’Connor’s afternoon keynote, entrapment refers to a desire to escape from an unbearable situation, tied with the perception that all escape routes are blocked (Gilbert & Allan, 1998). The four items of entrapment are:

• “I often have the feeling I would just like to run away”
• “I feel powerless to change things”
• “I feel trapped inside myself”
• “I feel I’m in a deep hole I can’t get out”

According to Dr. O’Connor, entrapment is central to the final common pathway to suicide. If a loved one expresses they feel trapped, show your support and encourage them to speak with a mental health professional. The takeaway: there is no trap from which we can’t escape together.

See the full presentation from Dr. Rory O’Connor here.

5) Our Morning Keynote, Vic Armstrong, MSW,  Left Everyone Wanting to Hear More

Far and wide, one of the favorite presentations from the 2022 conference was the morning keynote from Vic Armstrong, MSW. His stories were captivating, memorable, and set the stage for the rest of the day.

His main theme was that we must increase the pace of progress when it comes to ending the marriage between stigma and mental health. And his solution was to focus on partnering with trusted community organizations such as churches, barbershops and beauty salons, Boys and Girls Clubs, and other after-school programs.

Individuals have confidence in these organizations, and that credibility will be absorbed into the message that there’s no shame in struggling with your well-being. Everyone benefits when mental health is discussed in a safe environment.

Click here for the full presentation from Vic Armstrong, MSW.

6) Make Sure Your Treatment Plan is Right For You

“Usually it’s a top-down approach – doctors tell patients what to do,” said mental health activist Dr. Pata Suyemoto. “I think that all of us need to be empowered to say this my treatment plan… and it includes soul care activities as well as more traditional and integrative approaches.”

If drawing helps you cope, work with your therapist to incorporate art into healing. Athletes might want to integrate more exercise into their mental health regimen and writers can team with their clinicians to determine which types of stories would be most beneficial to compose. Your life is so unique – don’t settle for any old cookie-cutter treatment plan. No one knows you like you do.

Explore the full presentation from our panel discussion for communities and clinical professionals here.

Bonus Takeaway – There’s So Much Hope

Hundreds of attendees, from 28 states across the U.S. and Canada, virtually gathered at our 2022 conference, and expressed their profound interest in the future of suicide prevention.

We were inspired by the overwhelming passion exhibited and rejuvenated in our mission to end the stigma surrounding mental health and provide support to any person, workplace, or community in need of assistance.

There’s still more work necessary to ensure the safety of our current and upcoming generations, but the future of suicide prevention appears to shine brighter every day.

Written by Jake Donofrio

Jake Donofrio

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