Workshop focuses on suicide prevention

By Alex Rosenthal, ASST. NEWS EDITOR
On November 1, 2012

In 2010, Florida ranked No. 20 in the U.S. for suicide rates.

And rates are higher among young people suicide is the second-leading cause of death among college students, Stephen Roggenbaum, assistant in research for the Department of Child and Family Studies (CFS) in the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences, said.

Through a two-day workshop for community leaders across the state, sponsored by CFS Community Solutions, Roggenbaum said he hoped to help individuals and groups identify strategies in developing
their own coalitions around the issue of suicide prevention in the community.

Suicide is a rare event, but one suicide is one too many, he said. Especially if it is a member of your family, a friend of yours, someone down the hall in your dorm, someone in one of your classes.

The workshop, which started Tuesday, was led by Roggenbaum and colleague Katherine Lazear, a social and behavioral researcher in CFS. It focused on how to build and manage support groups for youth suicide prevention.

How we respond to a suicide may impact whether or not there are subsequent suicides, Roggenbaum said. It is important for us to be educated, to be aware, that each life is worth trying to save.

Roggenbaum and Lazears work centered on their Youth Suicide Prevention School-Based Guide, which was first published in 2003, but was rereleased in 2012. Roggenbaum cited the research as a key component in his work in teaching others how to reach out to those who may be at risk.

This has really been one of our cornerstone resources that seems to be a tool that is filling a void, he said. It has become important work that makes a difference in peoples lives.

Roggenbaum said the document is downloaded nearly 2,500 times a year and provides a stronger foundation for information and expertise on preventing youth suicide. It is available at theguide.fmhi.usf.edu.

The workshop gave participants opportunities to brainstorm and exercise strategies in organizing support groups, as well as learn how to overcome potential obstacles such as lack of funding and manpower.

Early on, we ask them what theyve heard about suicide, Roggenbaum said. This is the time when we hear some of the myths people hear about suicide. For example, (that) if you talk about suicide you plant the idea in somebodys head which is not true, based on research.

Roggenbaum said people often falsely assume that there has been a dramatic increase in youth suicide in the recent past. However, he said, between 1990 and 2003, suicide rates dropped nationally by 28 percent, and have only fluctuated slightly in the early 2000s.

One example Roggenbaum sometimes uses in his lecture to express potential signs of students at risk, he said, is that of the character of Dory in the Pixar movie Finding Nemo. Dory, he said, struggles with problems like terrible memory loss when she is alone, but when she finds a friend she is at her best and only struggles again when she is left alone at the end of the movie.

If people are connected, that tends to be a protective factor for suicide prevention, he said. We all tend to be better when we are socially connected.

Roggenbaum said that students and faculty should reach out to each other and be inclusive to those around them to prevent suicide. He said people should take advantage of resources such as counseling centers and safe zones on campus, as well as the Tampa Bay Crisis Center, and can call the national crisis center hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

The most memorable experiences are the stories I hear from people I am working with who have lost loved ones due to suicide, he said. They are passionate and they want to prevent that from happening to anybody else.

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