Ronna Autrey stood in front of a group of trainees in The Memorial Hospital conference room.
Her nametag read “Jack.”
Autrey was playing the role of a teenager during the two-day Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training that took place Tuesday and Wednesday at TMH. The training seminar, hosted by Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide, combined group exercises, workbook lessons, role-playing and more to teach people how to identify and help suicidal persons.
The group has been hosting similar training sessions for more than a year. Attendees have included educators, nurses and community members.
“Jack” had admitted to having suicidal thoughts, and the trainees were asking questions to understand the reasons Jack wanted to take his own life.
Autrey, suicide prevention coordinator for REPS, explained the value of those questions.
“You listen for reasons why he wants to die,” Autrey told the class. “But, you’re also listening for reasons he might want to live.
“If I can find just one reason to live that he and I can agree to, I can start working on that, and make him understand that maybe he doesn’t want to die.”
John Fleeker, program director for Steamboat Mental Health Center, taught the seminar along with Autrey. He explained that a trained populace is crucial to preventing suicide.
“We’re teaching them how to respond as caregivers,” Fleeker said. “It’s kind of like CPR (certification) for suicide. It’s certainly needed because, as a professional, I can’t be everywhere.”
Autrey agreed that caregivers provide a first line of defense against suicide because they are present in areas where professional mental heath workers might not be.
“It’s not the professionals who are typically seeing at-risk people on a daily basis. It’s teachers or family members,” she said.
Fleeker said the suicide rate is up in Colorado, and it is reflected in local communities. There were 11 suicides in Routt County, and four or five suicides in Moffat County in 2010, he said.
Meghan Francone was one of seven trainees at TMH on Tuesday. Her brother, a 15-year-old Moffat County High School student, took his own life last year.
Francone said anger motivated her to get involved.
“I felt angry at the community,” she said. “He was bullied at high school, along with some other underlying factors.
“And, so instead of being hypocritical, I got up and did something about it. I have joined the REPS group, and I’ve attended trainings to help other people.”
Francone said the training prepares people to spot potential warning signs.
“I want to be more prepared. There were signals that possibly I missed,” she said of her brother. “And, I want to be ready. I’m ready to be ready.”
Autrey said she’s planning to hold training sessions in Baggs, Wyo., and Steamboat Springs in the near future. She also said REPS holds regular meetings in Craig from noon to 1 p.m. on the third Thursday of every month at TMH.
“We’re always looking for volunteers,” she said.
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