California State University, Northridge will help shine a light on suicide by hosting the fifth annual Los Angeles Suicide Prevention Summit, “The Power of Our Voice: Hope, Help & Healing for High School and College Students,” from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 27.
The summit, which is free and open to the public, was started by the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (LADMH) in 2011. It brings together mental health community leaders to raise awareness about suicide risk factors, with a focus on high school and college age youth, and to inform students, parents, school and mental health professionals about suicide prevention, interventions and resources available in Los Angeles.
This is the first time the summit will be hosted at a university. It was brought to the campus by CSUN social work professor Judith A. DeBonis, who is the principal investigator for Ray of Hope, a grant-funded initiative promoting campus dialogue about suicide. The initiative provides trainings such as Safe Talk, a four-hour training on suicide alertness and how to talk about suicide, and the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills (ASIST) training, where people learn how to approach those at suicide risk and connect them to resources.
DeBonis said the summit’s theme reflects Ray of Hope’s strategy to help professionals and clinicians, and to empower all individuals to talk about suicide in a non-stigmatizing, supportive way. She said people should view suicide as not only a clinical problem, but more broadly as a public health problem.
“Everybody’s voice is needed, and everyone can give or get help,” DeBonis said. “The question is, what part can each of us play in preventing suicide, reducing stigma and raising awareness? People need to feel comfortable enough to reach out to a person who might be at risk of suicide, or to reach out when they themselves need help.”
The summit will take place at the Northridge Center in the University Student Union, on the east side of the campus at 18111 Nordhoff St. in Northridge.
Registration and tabling resources will be available from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m., where coffee and bagels will be served. From 8:30 to 9:30 a.m., Sam Chan, district chief of the LADMH, will welcome the summit’s attendees and introduce the first keynote speaker of the day, Stan Collins, a consultant on California Mental Health Services Act, who will speak about “the hero in each of us” and how all individuals can find their place in preventing suicide.
From 9:45 a.m. to 1 p.m., attendees can participate any of the seven breakout groups, which provide panel discussions on topics such as: the safe use of social media; lived experiences; suicide prevention in the LGBTQ community; high school and community college university policies on suicide and optimal ways of creating a safe environment; innovative prevention/intervention strategies that exist for high schools and colleges; suicide prevention and postvention; and supporting caregivers and clinicians who experience trauma vicariously.
A media room will also be available where people can use iPads to explore mental health apps.
Lunch will take place from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., and attendees can enjoy a boxed lunch from Belwood Bakery, which they can buy for $10 when they register online. During the break, they can also visit 21 resource tables showcasing the different mental health resources available at CSUN and in the broader LA community. Among those taking part will be organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the Trevor Project and the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, as well as campus groups such as the Blues Project, Matador MIND, the Pride Center and the Veterans Resource Center.
The afternoon session from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. in the Northridge Center will feature two keynote speakers. Dese’Rae L. Stage, a photographer and creator of “Live Through This,” a collection of portraits and stories of suicide attempt survivors, will speak about her own experience surviving a suicide attempt. Aron Steward, a clinical psychologist and a leader in the vicarious trauma prevention and intervention field, will speak about how to take care of oneself while giving support to others.
DeBonis said being comfortable with talking about suicide is key to prevention.
“If we can talk about suicide directly with each other, it will be more likely that we can connect individuals to resources that might help them,” DeBonis said. “We have a lot of resources on our campus and in the community, but our most valuable resource is each other. By sticking together and being open to talking directly about suicide, we can help keep everyone safe.”