By Kenneth Koon, DMin.
Over the past 20 years in Fayette County there have been 179 confirmed suicides. The high was 14 in 2004. The low was 6 in 2013; a year in which Armed Forces Mission (AFM) was highly focused in Fayette County on direct intervention of those at risk and training of caregivers to do the same. In 2014 and 15 request for training in other communities and extensive service to the US ARMY Reserve took us away from a focus on our hometown community. Sadly, recent data from the Georgia Department of Public Health revealed 12 confirmed suicides for 2014. Obviously, building a culture of health takes time. One year of focused training is not enough; it’s a flash in the pan. A sustained culture of health requires ongoing training and a wide participation from all segments of our community.
On May 24 and 25 AFM will offer the 2-Day Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) workshop in association with the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office. ASIST is an interactive workshop in suicide first-aid. Participants are trained to recognize when someone may be at risk of suicide and work with them to create a plan that will support their immediate safety. The workshop will offer 13 hours of POST credit for law enforcement and is open to all who want to learn the skills that save lives; no formal training or experience is required to attend —ASIST can be learned and used by anyone. ASIST is recognized as the world’s leading suicide intervention curriculum; and is backed by numerous evaluations including independent and peer-reviewed studies. A 2013 study that monitored over 1,500 suicidal callers to crisis lines found that callers who spoke with ASIST-trained counselors were 74% less likely to be suicidal after the call, compared to callers who spoke with counselors trained in methods other than ASIST. Callers were also less overwhelmed, less depressed, and more hopeful after speaking with ASIST-trained counselors. Individuals wishing to participate in the ASIST workshop can register at www.NoMoreSuicide.com. The May workshop will be held at Fayetteville First United Methodist Church.
On August 15 and 16 Georgia’s inaugural LOSS Team Conference will be held in Fayette County. LOSS is an acronym that stands for Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors. The conference theme is Hope and Healing. On day one national LOSS Team founder, Frank Campbell will be the keynote speaker. On day 2 AFM will offer the Listen Learn Lead Suicide Intervention Training. Individuals who have experienced loss and those who want to help make a difference in building a culture of health are invited to participate in this conference. Early bird registration for the conference has been extended through the end of May. To learn more or register for the conference visit www.LOSSteams.org.
Both the May workshop and the August conference are strategic efforts of AFM to return to a stronger focus on our hometown community for the purpose of building a sustainable culture of health. Year to date more than 200 individuals have participated in workshops and awareness briefings in Fayette County. Our goal is to train hundreds more before the end of the year and continue the work as long as it takes to make Fayette County the safest community in the state of Georgia if not the USA.