September 6th-12th is the focus week of National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Week. If 2020 and the Covid-19 Pandemic has brought us anything, it is the uncertainty of whether we should go to the store, visit our family, do our work from home, do the kids stay home and learn virtually, or does anything change at all. In this time we are staying socially distant from non-family and many are spending more and more time alone or spending much more time together, perhaps too much.
These changing situations that we find ourselves in can often be mental health triggers and help to comprimise our mental state. According to goodthearpy.org a trigger can be any number of items including, even small changes, in a stimulus such as a smell, sound, or sight that then trigger feelings of trauma or distress.
These added stressors have impacted societies mental health. According to a CDC report in late June 40% of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health issues. 11% of those adults considered suicide.
Nationally the U.S. has resources for prevention and outreach. One such resource is 1-800-272- TALK (8255) is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are struggling or know someone who is, this number is available 24/7.
Here in Adams County we have a dedicated group of citizens that make up the Adams County Suicide Awareness and Prevention. The group’s members are people who have lost someone to suicide, struggling with mental illness or suicidal thoughts, and those who have a special interest in suicide awareness and prevention with a commitment to community service.
Taking a moment to catch up to ACSAP President, Jazz Osman, and sitting down for some one-on-one questions about the group, the Awareness Walk they hold every year, and the importance of a group like this in our community. Let’s take a moment to stop and find out more about the ACSAP.
How was the ACSAP group started?
The group was started with the purpose of ACSAP is to raise awareness and prevent suicide, including raising and distributing funds in association with suicide awareness and prevention activities, with hopes of saving lives and one-day ending suicide. We also want folks in our community to no longer suffer in silence but to have a support system for survivors and those with mental illness to know they are not alone in this county.
How does ACSAP spend the funds raised and issued to them?
The money goes towards purchasing literature (and other supplies such as tissues) for Survivors and those with mental illness or suicidal thoughts, suicide prevention signage around the county, annual walk supplies, training in prevention. We have also paid copays for mental health services for those who could not afford them.
How does the group decide on who to help?
ACSAP helps those who reach out to us. We haven’t turned down anyone.
What does the group do in the community?
Currently, we hold a Support Group for Survivors of Suicide. Survivors are those who have lost someone to suicide. We meet on the third Thursday of each month at 7 PM in the Adams County Government Annex conference room. We host an annual walk on the 3rd Saturday of September at the Adams County Fairgrounds. Each year the group and other community members gather at the Adams County Fairgrounds for the Walk to Remember held by the group. This year is the 5th year; and the event will be a little different much like many events this year. We also run a Facebook page that promotes prevention and awareness and also helps those struggling to find help through mental health services and through the literature and resources we provide.
Are there any plans for expanding your services?
Beginning in January of 2021, we will be sending a Newsletter out each month to subscribers. (More info to come later) We are also in the process of fully implementing our LOSS Team. LOSS (Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors) Teams provide outreach and support to survivors of suicide loss in their communities. LOSS Teams are made up of survivors of suicide LOSS, behavioral health professionals, and other concerned community members. The main focus of this LOSS team will be crisis response outreach when a death by suicide occurs. LOSS Team volunteers trained in crisis response will visit the location of a suicide death and provide support to loved ones in the immediate hours after they have lost someone to suicide.
What is the importance of having a walk?
At the walk, we are together. We are leaning on each other for support. We are remembering those who are lost. We are spreading awareness of suicide topics to attendees–each year we focus on a topic; topics have included personal experiences with suicide and suicide loss, gun safety, and suicide warning signs and how to help. We are coming together to stand against suicide. We are trying to erase the stigma attached to suicide and getting help for mental illness and suicidal thoughts.
Why is the walk being held virtually this year?
This was a tough decision to make. More than ever, mental health is in the forefront of our lives. Due to “social distancing” and COVID-19, more are struggling than ever before. So, then why cancel our in-person event? Our Coalition is made up of volunteers and our Walk wouldn’t happen without those volunteers. Some of these volunteers care for and are they themselves immunocompromised, as are some of our past and potential walkers. To host the safest walk we could, we decided to host this year’s walk virtually so we can safely PHYSICALLY distance without SOCIALLY distancing.
What will take place during this year’s virtual event?
We will begin with the invocation and proceed to speakers on how persons can deal with feelings of anxiety and depression during the virus and while social distancing. We will have a moment of silence after announcing the names of those who we have lost to suicide (People can send the names to ACSAP via email and Facebook messenger). Throughout the night, a bell will ring every 12 minutes signaling the suicide of someone in the United States. Then we will ask participants to walk if they are able while we continue with the statistics of suicide on our yard signs (as if you were walking at our annual event).
How does one sign up for the walk?
Normally, registration forms can be found on our Facebook page, local businesses (Blake Pharmacy and Hometown Tan & Tone), and via email. This year, there will not be any registration, since it will be held virtually. We will encourage folks to take pictures and tag them with #ACSAPInThisTogether2020
Information can currently be found on our Facebook page or via email at ACSAPstandwithus@gmail.com. Visit the Facebook page to sign up for the event and participate in the events leading up to the virtual walk on September 12th at 7pm.