A Stone of Hope: Building a Suicide Safer Community

By DeAnna Pearl, Certified Prevention Specialist, SOS Tillamook Prevention Program

“Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” The words of Dr. Martin Luther King are fitting for over MLK weekend, on Friday and Saturday of January 18th and 19th, seventeen individuals completed a two-day course with one thing in mind — creating a suicide safer community in Tillamook County. In a partnership Tillamook Veterans Services and Columbia Pacific CCO, SOS Tillamook Prevention hosted a free training, Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST.) This training was made available free to anyone whom attended. The model teaches effective intervention skills while building suicide prevention networks in the community.
A suicide safer community is one that has demonstrated a commitment to suicide prevention, promoting wellness and mental health, an ability to talk openly and freely about suicide and support to those impacted by suicide. A community that believes by saving one life at a time it contributes to fewer suicides in the community as a whole; and when a community, including youth, take responsibility for helping with the issue creates a suicide safer community.

Suicide is now being deemed a community health crisis. The stigma surrounding suicide reduces the range and number of people who could help and prevent suicide. “We are all at risk of having thoughts of suicide at one time in our lives,” states ASIST Master Trainer Brianne Mares. “The difference is how we engage with people with those thoughts,” All thoughts and comments about suicide should be taken seriously. The sooner warning signs are detected and help sought, the better the outcome will be for the person with thoughts of suicide.
“We educate people to know that sometimes we don’t have the capacity to help those close to us,” insists ASIST Master Trainer DeAnna Pearl. “What you can do, is find someone that can and that is just as important.” The benefits of encouraging people to open up and talking about it and the impacts suicide has had in their lives. The training provides resources and guidance on these difficult situations, providing scripts and how-tos for recognizing and acting where there are vague ideas of suicide before these lead to a self-inflicted injury – it can mean the difference between life and death.
On Saturday of the MLK holiday weekend, the participants filled out a final feedback form, and the comments summed up the two-day training. “…I feel incredibly prepared to recognize and be able to help someone with thoughts of suicide.” Another, “[I] feel so much more hopeful about my ability to make a difference!” Seventeen people joined thousands of others who have mined the mountain of despair and found a stone of hope.
There are many types of training available, and a two-day, 16-hour commitment is difficult – how about an introduction to suicide prevention, and only two hours? Consider a “QPR – Question, Persuade, Refer” Training, in just a couple hours learn key tools to help prevent suicide.
Here are resources that are available locally, state and national hotlines:

SOS Tillamook, the Prevention Program through Tillamook Family Counseling Center, provides Support to Overcome and Strengthen Tillamook County. SOS Tillamook Prevention Program supports a safe and healthy community with outreach and education that helps grow connections through positive learning and experiences. SOS Tillamook sponsors a wide variety of events and speakers on topics such as community engagement, parenting support, mental health, addiction and recovery, suicide prevention, self-care vs. self-harm, brain development, emotional literacy and more – see www.sostillamook.org. For more information about upcoming trainings and community conversations, contact DeAnna Pearl @ 503 842 8102 x 270 or email DeAnnaP@tfcc.org.